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No. 9 
i()th August, 1950 






15 College Square, CALCUTTA 

All Rights Reserved 















Sri Aurobindo 

Sri Aurobindo 



Nolini Kant a Gupta . 28 

Haridas Chaudhuri . 36 

T. V. Kapali Sastry . 67 

M. P. Pandit 


Arabinda Basil 

S.K. Maitra 

Gabriela Mistral 







TN silent bounds bordering the mortal's plane 
A Crossing a wide expanse of brilliant peace 
Narad the heavenly sage from Paradise 
Came chanting through the large and lustrous air. 
Attracted by the golden summer-earth 
That lay beneath him like a glowing bowl 
Tilted upon a table of the Gods, 
Turning as if moved round by an unseen hand 
To catch the warmth and blaze of a small sun. 
He passed from the immortals' happy paths 
To a world of toil and quest and grief and hope, 
To these rooms of a see-saw game of death and life. 
Across an intangible border of soul-space 
He passed from Mind into material things 
Amid the inventions of the inconscient Self 
And the workings of a blind somnambulist Force. 
Below him circling burned the myriad suns: 
He bore the ripples of the etheric sea; 
A primal Air brought the first joy of touch, 
Contracting and expanding this huge world 


In its formidable circuit through the Void; 

He who has conquered the immortals' seats, 

Came down to men on earth the Man divine. 

As might a lightning streak, a glory fell 

Nearing until the rapt eyes of the sage 

Looked out from luminous cloud and strangely limned 

His face, a beautiful mask of antique joy. 

Appearing in light descended where arose 

King Aswapathy's palace to the winds 

In Madra, flowering up in delicate stone. 

There welcomed him the sage and thoughtful king, 

At his side a creature beautiful, passionate, wise 

Aspiring like a sacrificial flame, 

Skyward from its earth-seat through luminous air, 

Queen-browed, the human mother of Savitri. 

There for .an hour untouched by the earth's siege 

They ceased from common life and care and sat 

Inclining to the high and rhythmic voice, 

While in his measured chant the heavenly seer 

Spoke of the toils of men and what the gods 

Strive for on earth, and joy that throbs behind 

The marvel and the mystery of pain. 

He sang to them of the lotus-heart of love 

With all its thousand luminous buds of truth, 

Which quivering sleeps veiled by apparent things. 

It trembles at each touch, it strives to wake 

And one day it shall hear a blissful voice 

And in the garden of the Spouse shall bloom 

When she is seized by her discovered lord. 

A mighty shuddering coil of ecstasy 

Crept through the deep heart of the universe. 

Out of her Matter's stupor, her mind's dreams, 

She woke, she looked upon God's unveiled face. 

Even as he sang and rapture stole through earth-time 

And caught the heavens, came with a call of hooves, 

As of her swift heart hastening, Savitri; 

Her radiant tread glimmered across the floor. 

A happy wonder in her fathomless gaze, 

Changed by the halo of her love she came; 

Her eyes rich with a shining mist of joy 


As one who comes from a heavenly embassy 

Discharging the proud mission of her heart, 

One carrying the sanction of the gods 

To her love and its luminous eternity 

She stood before her mighty father's throne 

And, eager for beauty on discovered earth 

Transformed and new in her heart's miracle-light, 

Saw like a rose of marvel, worshipping, 

The fiery sweetness of the son of Heaven. 

He flung on her his vast immortal look; 

His inner gaze surrounded her with its light 

And reining back knowledge from his immortal lips 

He cried to her, "Who is this that comes, the bride, 

The flame-born, and round her illumined head 

Pouring their lights her hymeneal pomps 

Move flashing about her ? From what green glimmer of glades 

Retreating into dewy silences 

Or half-seen verge of waters moon-betrayed 

Bringst thou this glory of enchanted eyes ? 

Earth has gold-hued expanses, shadowy hills 

That cowl their dreaming phantom heads in night, 

And guarded in a cloistral joy of woods, 

Screened banks sink down into felicity 

Seized by the curved incessant yearning hands 

And ripple-passion of the up-gazing stream: 

Amid cool-lipped murmurs of its pure embrace 

They lose their souls on beds of trembling reeds. 

And all these are mysterious presences 

In which some spirit's immortal bliss is felt, 

And they betray the earth-born heart to joy. 

There hast thou paused, and marvelling borne eyes 

Unknown, or heard a voice that forced thy life 

To strain its rapture through thy listening soul ? 

Or, if my thought could trust this shimmering gaze, 

It would say: thou hast not drunk from an earthly cup, 

But stepping through azure curtains of the morn 

Thou wast surrounded on a magic verge 

In brighter countries than man's eyes can bear. 

Assailed by trooping voices of delight 

And seized mid a sunlit glamour of the boughs 


In faery woods, led down the gleaming slopes 

Of Gundhamadan where the Apsaras roam, 

Thy limbs have shared the sports which none has seen, 

And in god-haunts thy human footsteps strayed. 

Thy mortal bosom quivered with god-speech 

And thy soul answered to a Word unknown. 

What feet of gods, what ravishing flutes of heaven 

Have thrilled high melodies round, from near and far 

Approaching through the soft and revelling air. 

Which still surprised thou hearest ? They have fed 

Thy silence on some red strange-ecstasied fruit 

And thou hast trod the dim moon-peaks of bliss. 

Reveal, O winged with light, whence thou hast flown 

Hastening bright-hued through the green-tangled earth, 

Thy body rhythmical v/ith the spring-bird's call. 

The empty roses of thy hands are filled 

Only with their own beauty and the thrill 

Of a remembered clasp, and in thee glows 

A heavenly jar, thy firm deep-honied heart, 

New-brimming with a sweet and nectarous wine. 

Thou hast not spoken with the kings of pain. 

Life's perilous music rings yet to thy ear 

Far-melodied, rapid, grand, a Centaur's song, 

Or soft as water plashing mid the hills, 

Or mighty as a great chant of many winds. 

Moon-bright thou livest in thy inner bliss. 

Thou comest like a silver deer through groves 

Of coral flowers and buds of glowing dreams, 

Or fleest like a wind-goddess through leaves, 

Or roamest, O ruby-eyed and snow-winged dove. 

Flitting through thickets of thy pure desires 

In the unwounded beauty of thy soul. 

These things are only images to thy earth, 

But truest truth of that which in thee sleeps. 

For such is thy spirit, a sister of the gods, 

Thy earthly body lovely to the eyes, 

And thou art kin in joy to heaven's sons. 

O thou who hast come to this great perilous world 

Now only seen through the splendour of thy dreams, 

Where hardly love and beauty can live safe, 


Thyself a being dangerously great, 
A soul alone in a golden house of thought 
Has lived walled in by the safety of thy dreams. 
On heights of happiness leaving doom asleep 
Who hunts unseen the unconscious lives of men. 
If thy heart could live locked in the ideal's gold, 
As high, as happy might thy waking be ! 
If for all time doom could be left to sleep!" 

He spoke but held his knowledge back from words. 
As a cloud plays with lightning's vivid laugh. 
But still holds back the thunder in its heart, 
Only he let bright images escape. 
His speech like glimmering music veiled his thoughts; 
Pitiful to mortals, only to them it spoke, 
As a wind flatters the bright summer air, 
Of living beauty and of present bliss: 
He hid in his all-knowing mind the rest. 
To those who hearkened to his celestial voice. 
The veil heaven's pity throws on future pain 
The Immortals' sanction seemed of endless joy. 
But Aswapathy answered to the seer; 
His listening mind had marked the dubious close, 
An ominous shadow felt behind the words, 
But calm like one who ever sits facing Fate 
Here mid the dangerous contours of earth's life, 
He answered covert thought with guarded speech: 
"O deathless sage who knowest all things here, 
If I could read by the ray of my own wish 
Through the carved shield of symbol images 
Which thou hast thrown before thy heavenly mind 
I might see the steps of a young godlike life 
Happily beginning luminous-eyed on earth; 
Between the Unknowable and the Unseen 
Born on the borders of two wonder- worlds, 
It flames out symbols of the Infinite 
And lives in a great light of inner suns. 
For it has read and broken the hidden seals; 
It has drunk of the Immortal's wells of joy, 
It has looked across the jewel bars of heaven, 
It has entered the aspiring Secrecy, 


It sees beyond terrestrial common things 

And communes with the Powers that build the worlds. 

Till through the shining gates and mystic streets 

Of the city of lapis lazuli and pearl 

Proud deeds step forth a rank and march of gods. 

Although in pauses of our human lives 

Earth keeps for man some short and perfect hours 

When the inconscient tread of Time can seem 

The eternal moment which the deathless live, 

Yet rare that touch upon the mortal's world: 

Hardly a soul and body here are born 

In the fierce difficult movement of the stars, 

Whose life can keep the paradisal note, 

Its rhythm repeat the many-toned melody 

Tirelessly throbbing through the rapturous air 

Caught in the song that sways the Apsara's limbs 

When she floats gleaming like a cloud of light, 

A wave of joy on heaven's moon-stone floor. 

Behold this image cast by light and love, 

A stanza of the ardour of the gods 

Perfectly rhymed, a pillared ripple of gold! 

Her body like a brimmed pitcher of delight 

Shaped in a splendour of gold-coloured bronze 

As if to seize earth's truth of hidden bliss. 

Dream-made illumined mirrors are her eyes 

Draped subtly in a slumberous fringe of jet, 

Retaining heaven's reflections in.their depths. 

Even as her body, such is she within, 

Heaven's lustrous mornings gloriously recur, 

Like drops of fire upon a silver page, 

In her young spirit yet untouched with tears. 

All beautiful things eternal seem and new 

To virgin wonder in her crystal soul. 

The unchanging blue reveals its spacious thought; 

Marvellous the moon floats on through wondering skies; 

Earth's flowers spring up and laugh at time and death; 

The charmed mutations of the enchanter life 

Race like bright children past the smiling hours. 

If but this joy of life could last, nor pain 

Throw its bronze note into her rhythmed days! 


Behold her, singer with the prescient gaze. 
And let thy blessing chant that this fair child 
Shall pour the nectar of a sorrowless life 
Around her from her lucid heart of love, 
Heal with her bliss the tired breast of earth 
And cast like a happy snare felicity. 
As grows the great and golden bounteous tree 
Flowering by Alacananda's murmuring waves, 
Where with enamoured speed the waters run 
Lisping and babbling to the splendour of morn 
And cling with lyric laughter round the knees 
Of heaven's daughters dripping magic rain 
Pearl-bright from moon-gold limbs and cloudy hair, 
So are her dawns like jewelled leaves of light. 
So casts she her felicity on men. 
A flame of radiant happiness she was born, 
And surely will that flame set earth alight: 
Doom surely will see her pass and say no word, 
But too often here the careless Mother leaves 
Her chosen in the envious hands of Fate: 
The harp of God falls mute, its call to bliss 
Discouraged fails mid earth's unhappy sounds; 
The strings of the siren Ecstasy cry not here 
Or sooner silenced in the human heart. 
Of sorrow's songs we have enough: bid once 
Her glad and griefless days ring heaven here. 
Or must fire always test the great of soul? 
Along the dreadful causeway of the gods 
Armoured with love and faith and sacred joy, 
A traveller to the Eternal's house 
Once let unwounded pass a mortal life." 
But Narad answered not; silent he sat, 
Knowing that words are vain and Fate is lord. 
He looked into the unseen with seeing eyes, 
Then, dallying with the mortal's ignorance 
Like one who knows not, questioning, he cried: 
"On what high mission went her hastening wheels? 
Whence came she with this glory in her heart 
And Paradise made visible in her eyes? 
What sudden God has met, what face supreme?" 


To whom the king, "The red asoca watched 

Her going forth which now sees her return. 

Arisen into an air of flaming dawn 

Like a bright bird tired of her lonely branch 

To find her own lord, since to her on earth 

He came not yet, this sweetness wandered forth 

Cleaving her way with the beat of her rapid wings. 

Led by a distant call her vague swift flight 

Threaded the summer morns and sunlit lands. 

The happy rest her burdened lashes keep 

And these charmed guardian lips hold treasured still. 

Virgin who comest perfected by joy, 

Reveal the name thy sudden heart beats learned. 

Whom hast thou chosen kingliest among men?" 

And Savitri answered with her still calm voice 

As one who speaks beneath the eyes of Fate: 

"Father and king, I have carried out thy will. 

One whom I sought I found in distant lands; 

I have obeyed my heart, I have heard its call. 

On the borders of a dreaming wilderness 

Mid Shalwa's giant hills and brooding woods, 

In his thatched hermitage Dyumathsena dwells, 

Blind, exiled, outcast, once a mighty king. 

The son of Dyumathsena, Satyavan 

I have met on the wild forest's lonely verge. 

My father, I have chosen. This is done." 

Astonished, all sat silent for a space. 

Then Aswapathy looked within and saw 

A heavy shadow float above the name 

Chased by a sudden and stupendous light; 

He looked into his daughter's eyes and spoke: 

"Well hast thou done and I approve thy choice. 

If this is all, then all is surely well; 

If there is more, then all can still be well. 

Whether it seem good or evil to men's eyes, 

Only for good the secret Will can work, 

Our destiny is written in double terms: 

Through Nature's contraries we draw near God; 

Out of the darkness we still grow to light. 

Death is our road to immortality. 



'Cry woe, cry woe' the world's lost voices wail, 

Yet conquers the eternal Good at last." 

Then might the sage have spoken, but the king 

In haste broke out and stayed the dangerous word: 

"O singer of ultimate ecstasy. 

Lend not a dangerous vision to the blind. 

Because by native right thou hast seen clear. 

Impose not on the mortal's tremulous breast 

The dire ordeal that foreknowledge brings; 

Demand not now the godhead in our acts. 

Here are not happy peaks the heaven-nymphs roam, 

Or Coilas or Vaicountha's starry stair, 

Abrupt jagged hills only the mighty climb 

Are here where few dare even think to rise; 

Far voices call down from the dizzy rocks, 

Chill, slippery, precipitous are the paths. 

Too hard the gods are with man's fragile race 

In their large heavens they dwell exempt from Fate 

And they forget the wounded feet of man, 

His limbs that faint beneath the whips of grief, 

His heart that hears the tread of time and death, 

The future's road is hid from mortal sight: 

He moves towards a veiled and secret face. 

To light one step in front is all his hope 

And only for a little strength he asks 

To meet the riddle of his shrouded fate. 

Awaited by a vague and half-seen force, 

Aware of danger to his uncertain hours 

He guards his flickering yearnings from her breath; 

He feels not when the dreadful fingers close 

Around him the grasp none can elude. 

If thou canst loose her grip then only speak, 

Perhaps from the iron snare there is escape: 

Our mind perhaps deceives us with its words 

And gives the name of doom to our own choice; 

Perhaps the blindness of our will is Fate." 

He said and Narad answered not the king. 

But now the queen alarmed lifted her voice: 

"O seer, thy bright arrival has been timed 

To this high moment of a happy life. 


Then let the speech benign of griefless spheres 

Confirm this blithe conjunction of two stars 

And sanction joy with thy celestial voice. 

Here drag not in the peril of our thoughts, 

Let not our words create the doom they fear. 

Here is no cause for dread, no chance for grief 

To raise her ominous head and stare at love: 

A single spirit in a multitude, 

Happy is Satyavan mid earthly men 

Whom Savitri has chosen for her mate, 

And fortunate the forest hermitage 

Where leaving her palace and riches and a throne 

My Savitri will dwell and bring in heaven. 

Then let thy blessing put the immortals' seal 

On these bright lives' unstained felicity 

Pushing the ominous Shadow from their days. 

Too heavy falls a Shadow on man's heart; 

It dares not be too happy upon earth. 

It dreads the blow dogging too vivid joys, 

A lash unseen in Fate's extended hand, 

The danger lurking in fortune's proud extremes, 

An irony in life's indulgent smile 

And tremble at the laughter of the gods. 

Or if crouches unseen a panther doom, 

If wings of Evil brood above that house, 

Then also speak, that we may turn aside 

And rescue our lives from hazard of wayside doom 

And chance entanglement of an alien fate." 

And Narad slowly answered to the queen: 

"What help is in prevision to the driven? 

Safe doors cry opening near, the doomed pass on. 

A future knowledge is an added pain, 

A torturing burden and a fruitless light 

On the enormous scene that Fate has built. 

The eternal poet, universal Mind, 

Has paged each line of his imperial act; 

Invisible the giant actors tread 

And man lives like some secret player's mask. 

He knows not even what his lips shall speak. 

For a mysterious Power compels his steps 


And life is stronger than his trembling soul. 

None can refuse what the stark Force demands, 

Her eyes are fixed upon her mighty aim; 

No cry or prayer can turn her from her path, 

She has leaped an arrow from the bow of God." 

His words were theirs who live unforced to grieve 

And help by calm the swaying wheels of life 

And the long restlessness of transient things 

And the trouble and passion of the unquiet world. 

As though her own bosom were pierced the mother saw 

The ancient human sentence strike her child, 

Her sweetness that deserved another fate 

Only a larger measure given of tears. 

Aspiring to the nature of the gods, 

A mind proof-armoured mailed in mighty thoughts, 

A will entire couchant behind wisdom's shield, 

Though to still heavens of knowledge she had risen, 

Though calm and wise and Aswapathy's queen, 

Human was she still and opened her doors to grief; 

The stony-eyed injustice she accused 

Of the marble godhead of inflexible Law; 

Nor sought the strength extreme adversity brings 

To lives that stand erect and front the World-Power: 

Her heart appealed against the impartial judge, 

Taxed with perversity the impersonal One. 

Her tranquil spirit she called not to her aid. 

But as a common man beneath his load 

Grows faint and breathes his pain in ignorant words, 

So now she arraigned the World's impassive will: 

"What stealthy doom has crept across her path 

Emerging from the dark forest's sullen heart, 

What evil thing stood smiling by the way 

And wore the beauty of the Shalwa boy? 

Perhaps he came an enemy from her past 

Armed with a hidden force of ancient wrongs, 

Himself unknowing, and seized her unknown. 

Here dreadfully entangled love and hate 

Meet us blind wanderers mid the perils of Time. 

Our days are links of a disastrous chain, 

Necessity avenges casual steps; 



Old cruelties come back unrecognised, 

The gods make use of our forgotten deeds. 

Yet all in vain the bitter law was made. 

Our own minds are the justicers of doom. 

For nothing have we learned, but still repeat 

Our stark misuse of self and others' selves. 

And fallen from his ethereal element 

Love darkens to the spirit of nether gods. 

The dreadful angel angry with his joys 

Woundingly sweet he cannot yet forego, 

Is pitiless to the soul his gaze disarmed, 

He visits with his own pangs his quivering prey 

Forcing us to cling enamoured to his grip 

As if in love with our own agony. 

This is one poignant misery in the world, 

And grief has other lassoes for our life. 

Our sympathies become our tortures. 

Strength have I my own punishment to bear, 

Knowing it just, but on this earth perplexed, 

Smitten in the sorrow of scourged and helpless things, 

Often it faints to meet other suffering eyes. 

We are not as the gods who know not grief 

And look impassive on a suffering world, 

Calm they gaze down on the little human scene 

And the short-lived passion crossing mortal hearts. 

An ancient tale of woe can move us still, 

We keep the ache of breasts that breathe no more, 

We are shaken by the sight of human pain, 

And share the miseries that others feel. 

Ours not the passionless lids that cannot age. 

Too hard for us is heaven's indifference: 

Ourown tragedies are not enough for us, 

All pathos and all sufferings we make ours; 

We have sorrow for a greatness passed away 

And feel the touch of tears in mortal things. 

Even a stranger's anguish rends my heart, 

And this, Narad, is my well-loved child. 

Hide not from us our doom, if doom is ours. 

This is the worst, an unknown face of Fate, 

A terror ominous mute felt more than seen 


Behind our seat by day, our couch by night, 
A Fate lurking in the shadow of our hearts, 
The anguish of the unseen that waits to strike. 
To know is best, however hard to bear." 
Then cried the sage piercing the mother's heart. 
Forcing to steel the will of Savitri 
His words set free the spring of cosmic Fate. 
The great Gods use the pain of human hearts 
As a sharp axe to hew their cosmic road: 
They squander lavishly men's blood and tears 
For a moment's purpose in their fateful work. 
This cosmic Nature's balance is not ours 
Nor the mystic measure of her need and use. 
A single word lets loose vast agencies, 
A casual act determines the world's fate. 

So now he set free destiny in that hour: 

"The truth thou hast claimed; I give to thee the truth. 

A marvel of the meeting earth and heavens 

Is he whom Savitri has chosen mid men, 

His figure is the front of Nature's march, 

His single being excels the works of Time. 

A sapphire cutting from the sleep of heaven, 

Delightful is the soul of Satyavan, 

A ray out of the rapturous infinite, 

A silence waking to a hymn of joy. 

A divinity and kingliness gird his brow; 

His eyes keep a memory from a world of bliss. 

As brilliant as a lonely moon in heaven, 

Gentle like the sweet bud that spring desires, 

Pure like a stream that kisses silent banks, 

He takes with bright surprise spirit and sense. 

A living knot of golden Paradise, 

A blue Immense he leans to the longing world, 

Time's joy borrowed out of eternity, 

A star of splendour or a rose of bliss. 

In him Soul and Nature, equal Presences, 

Balance and fuse in a wide harmony. 

The Happy in their bright ether have not hearts 

More sweet and true than this of mortal make 

That takes all joy as the world's native gift 


And to all gives joy as the world's natural right. 

His speech carries a light of inner truth. 

And a large-eyed communion with the Power 

In common things has made veilless his mind, 

A seer in earth-shapes of garbless deity. 

A tranquil breadth of sky windless and still 

Watching the world like a mind of unplumbed thought, 

A silent space musing and luminous 

Uncovered by the morning to delight, 

A green tangle of trees upon a happy hill 

Made into a murmuring nest by southern winds, 

These are his images and parallels, 

His kin in beauty and in depth his peers. 

A will to climb lifts a delight to live 

Heaven's height companion of earth-beauty's charm, 

An aspiration to the immortals' air 

Lain on the lap of mortal ecstasy. 

His sweetness and his joy attract all hearts 

To live with his own in a glad tenancy, 

His strength is like a tower built to reach heaven, 

A godhead quarried from the stones of life. 

loss, if death into its elements . 

Of which his gracious envelope was built 

Shatter this vase before it breathes its sweets, 

As if earth could not keep too long from heaven 

A treasure thus unique loaned by the gods, 

A being so rare, of so divine a make! 

In one brief year when this bright hour flies back 

And perches careless on a branch of Time, 

This sovereign glory ends heaven lent to earth, 

This splendour vanishes from the mortal's sky: 

Heaven's greatness came, but was too great to stay. 

Twelve swift-winged months are given to him and her; 

This day returning Satyavan must die." 

A lightning bright and nude the sentence fell. 

But the queen cried: "Vain then can be Heaven's grace! 

Heaven mocks us with the brilliance of its gifts, 

For Death is a cupbearer of the wine 

Of too brief joy held up to mortal lips 

For a passionate moment by the careless gods. 


But I reject the grace and the mockery. 

Mounting thy car go forth, Savitri, 

And travel once more through the peopled lands. 

Alas, in the green gladness of the woods 

Thy heart has stooped to a misleading call. 

Choose once again and leave this fated head. 

Death is the gardener of this wonder-tree; 

Love's sweetness sleeps in his pale marble hand. 

Advancing in a honeyed line, but closed 

A little joy would buy too bitter an end. 

Plead not thy choice, for death has made it vain. 

Thy youth and radiance were not born to lie 

A casket void dropped on a careless soil; 

A choice less rare may call a happier fate." 

But Savitri answered from her violent heart, 

Her voice was calm, her face was fixed like steel: 

"Once my heart chose and chooses not again. 

The word I have spoken can never be erased, 

It is written in the record book of God. 

The truth once uttered, from the earth's air effaced, 

By mind forgotten, sounds immortally 

For ever in the memory of Time. 

Once the dice fall thrown by the hand of Fate 

In an eternal moment of the gods. 

My heart has sealed its troth to Satyavan: 

Its signature adverse Fate cannot efface, 

Its seal not Fate nor Death nor Time dissolve. 

Those who shall part who have grown one being within ? 

Death's grip can break our bodies, not our souls; 

If death take him, I too know how to die. 

Let Fate do with me what she will or can; 

I am stronger than death and greater than my fate; 

My love shall outlast the world, doom falls from me 

Helpless against my immortality. 

Fate's law may change, but not my spirit's will." 

An adamant will, she cast her speech like bronze 

But in the queen's mind listening her words 

Rang like the voice of a self-chosen Doom 

Denying every issue of escape. 

To her own despair answer the mother made; 


As one she cried who in her heavy heart 

Labours amid the sobbing of her hopes 

To wake a note of help from sadder strings; 

"O child, in the magnificence of thy soul 

Dwelling on the border of a greater world. 

And, dazzled by thy superhuman thoughts, 

Thou lendst eternity to a mortal hope. 

Here on this mutable and ignorant earth, 

Who is the lover and who is the friend? 

All passes here, nothing remains the same. 

None is for any on this transient globe. 

He whom thou lovest now, a stranger came 

And into a far strangeness shall depart. 

His moment's part once done upon life's stage 

Which for a time was given him from within, 

To other scenes he moves and other players 

And laughs and weeps mid faces new, unknown. 

The body thou hast loved is cast away 

Amidst the brute unchanging stuff of worlds 

To indifferent mighty Nature and becomes 

Crude matter for the joy of others' lives. 

But for our souls, upon the wheel of God 

For ever turning, they arrive and go, 

Married and sundered in the magic round 

Of the great Dancer of the boundless dance. 

Our emotions are but high and dying notes 

Of his wild music changed compellingly 

By the passionate movements of a seeking Heart 

In the incessant links of hour with hour. 

To call down heaven's distant answering song, 

To cry to an unseized bliss is all we dare; 

Once seized, we lose the heavenly music's sense; 

Too near, the rhythmic cry has fled or failed; 

All sweetnesses are baffling symbols here. 

Love dies before the lover in our breast: 

Our joys are perfumes in a brittle vase. 

O then what wreck is this upon Time's sea 

To spread life's sails to the hurricane desire 

And call for pilot the unseeing heart! 

O child, wilt thou proclaim, wilt thou then follow 


Against the Law that is the eternal will 

The autarchy of the rash titan's mood 

To whom his own fierce will is the one law 

In a world where Truth is not, nor Light nor God? 

Only the gods can speak what now thou speakst. 

Thou art human, think not like a god. 

For man, below the god, above the brute, 

Is given the calm reason as his guide; 

He is not driven by an unthinking will 

As are the actions of the bird and beast; 

He is not moved by stark Necessity 

Like the senseless motion of inconscient things. 

The giant's and the titan's furious march 

Climbs to usurp the kingdom of the gods 

Or skirts the demon magnitudes of Hell; 

In the unreflecting passion of their hearts 

They dash their lives against the eternal Law 

And fall and break by their own violent mass: 

The middle path is made for thinking man. 

To choose his steps by reason's vigilant light, 

To choose his path among the many paths 

Is given him, for each his difficult goal 

Hewn out of infinite possibility. 

Leave not thy goal to follow a beautiful face. 

Only when thou hast climbed above thy mind 

And livst in the calm vastness of the One 

Can love be eternal in the eternal bliss 

And Love divine replace the human tie. 

There is a shrouded Jaw, an austere force: 

It bids thee strengthen thy undying spirit; 

It offers its severe benignances 

Of work and thought and measured grave delight 

As steps to climb to God's far secret heights. 

Then is our life a tranquil pilgrimage, 

Each year a mile from the heavenly Way, 

Each dawn opens into a larger Light. 

Thy acts are thy helpers, or events are signs, 

Waking and sleep are opportunities 

Given to thee by an immortal Power: 

So canst thou raise thy pure unvanquished spirit 


Till spread to heaven in a wide vesper calm 

Indifferent and gentle as the sky, 

It greatens slowly into timeless peace." 

But Savitri replied with steadfast eyes: 

"My will is part of the eternal will, 

My fate is what my spirit's strength can make, 

My fate is what my spirit's strength can bear; 

My strength is not the titan's, it is God's. 

I have discovered my glad reality 

Beyond my body in another's being: 

I have found the deep unchanging soul of love. 

Then how shall I desire a lonely good, 

Or slay, aspiring to white vacant peace, ' 

The endless hope that made my soul spring forth 

Out of its infinite solitude and sleep? 

My spirit has glimpsed the glory for which it came, 

Beating of one vast heart in the flarne of things, 

My eternity clasped by his eternity 

And, tireless of the sweet abysms of Time, 

Deep possibility always to love. 

This, this is first, last joy and to its throb 

The riches of a thousand fortunate years 

Are a poverty. Nothing to me are death and grief 

Or ordinary lives and happy days. 

And what to me are common souls of men 

Or eyes and lips that are not Satyavan's? 

I have no need to draw back from his arms 

And the discovered paradise of his love 

And journey into a still infinity. 

Only now for my soul in Satyavan 

I treasure the rich occasion of my birth: 

In sunlight and a dream of emerald ways 

I shall walk with him like gods in Paradise. 

If for a year, that year is all my life 

And yet I know this is not all my fate 

Only to live and love awhile and die. 

For I know now why my spirit came on earth 

And who I am and who he is I love. 

I have looked at him from my immortal Self, 

I have seen God smile at me in Satyavan; 



I have seen the Eternal in a human face." 
Then none could answer to her words. Silent 
They sat and looked into the eyes of Fate. 


Old Writing* 




A LL Art is interpretation. Creation is a misnomer; nothing in this world 
"^ is created, all is manifested. All exists previously in the mind of the 
Knower. Art may interpret that which is already manifest or was manifest 
at one time, or it may interpret what will be manifest hereafter. It may 
even be used as one of the agencies in the manifestation. A particular type 
of face and figure may be manifested in the work of a popular artist and 
in a single generation the existing type of face and figure in the country 
may change and mould itself to the new conception. These things are 
there in the type in the causal world with which our superconscious 
selves are perpetually in touch; they manifest in the psychical and become 
part of our thought. That thought we put out into the material world 
and there it takes shape and body as movements, as institutions, as 
poetry. Art and knowledge, as living men and women. Man creates his 
world because he is the psychic instrument through whom God mani- 
fests that which He had previously arranged in Himself. In this sense 
Art can create the past, the present and the future. It can re-manifest 
that which s was and has passed away, it can fix for us that which is, it 
can prophesy that which will be. 


Its normal sphere, however, is interpretation of a less pregnant and forceful 
kind. Here too, there are three things which it can interpret in the object 
it selects, the causal part or thing in itself, the psychical part, or its passing 
imaginations, phases, emotions; or the physical part, the outward appear- 

* Written in 1910 (for the "Karmayogin"). Unpublished. 



ance, incident or movement as our eyes see them. Indian Art attaches 
itself to the two higher interpretations, European to the two lower. They 
meet in the middle term of Art, the imaginative and emotional; but each 
brings with it the habits of vision, the conventions, the mastering movement 
and tendency of the soul downward to earth or upward to heaven, born of 
their main pre-occupation so that even here, though they meet on common 
ground, they remain diverse and unreconciled. 


In dealing with the form the question between them is: shall I reproduce 
what the eye sees or shall I reproduce what the soul sees? The lower type of 
European Art is content with reproducing what the eye sees. This it calls 
realism and fidelity to Nature narrowing Nature to the limited confines 
cf the materially sensible. The reproduction, of course, is not a real 
reproduction but only an approximation within the limitations imposed by 
the canvas, the brush and the paint box. It is really as close an imitation 
as our instruments will allow, absolute fidelity being rarely possible. This 
style of Art had perhaps its utility, but now that we have photographs 
and can put colour into the photographs, its separate field is in danger 
of being taken from it. 

A higher European Art takes imitation of the form as its basis, but its 
nobler objective is not the imitation of form, but the imitation of emotion. 
The artist tries to see and recover on canvas not only the body, but so much 
of the feeling as the body can for the moment express. This may often be a 
great deal. In certain moments of powerful feeling or critical action a great 
deal of our psychical selves may come out in the eyes, the face, the gesture, 
the pose. This the artist imitates. He not only shows us an object or an 
incident, but he fixes on the canvas a moment in the souHife of the object. 
The habitual mood also stamps itseJf to a great extent on the face and cer- 
tain traits of character betray themselves in expression and feature. These 
too the imitative artist transfers to the canvas. When not exaggerated or 
theatrical, this kind of art can be strong, effective and dramatic. But it 
has serious limitations. So much of the inner truth as the outward form 
interprets, this Art interprets. Its interpretation is second-hand, its vision 
derived and unable to go beyond its authority. 



A still higher reach is attained by imaginative European Art. Imagination, 
according to the European idea, is creative, not interpretative. What is 
really meant is that the imaginative artist transfers something that belongs 
to himself into the object of his study, some fancy that has flashed across 
or some idea that has mastered his mind. Either he reads it into his subject 
by unconscious transference or he deliberately uses his subject as a mere 
excuse for putting his fancy or his idea into line and colour. The artist 
is interpreting himself, not his subject. This egoistic Art has often a very 
high value and some of the best European work has been done in this kind. 
More rarely his imaginative sympathy enables him to catch a glimpse of 
the thing itself hidden in the form. His imagination usually plays with it 
and prevents the vision from being true in all its parts, but he is able to 
do work of the highest attractiveness, vigour or artistic beauty. 


In all these kinds the European binds himself by the necessity of repro- 
ducing the actual outward form imposed by material Nature. He is a 
bondsman to form and such do not attain to that spiritual freedom which 
is the first condition of the sight spiritual. When he tries to interpret the 
thing in itself, he degenerates usually into allegory. Recently the 
Impressionist School in Europe have tried to break the fetters of the form; 
they have insisted that what one really sees in an object is not the rounded, 
solid material form but something rarer and different. In reality^ they are 
groping their way towards an attempt at seeing and interpreting something 
hidden in the object, something the soul sees before the eye can catch it. 
Ignorant of the way, they seldom rise beyond a striking and fantastic ima- 
gination, but sometimes an inspired eye catches the true vision. 

The Indian begins at the ether end. He sees the thing itself either by 
sukshma-drishti, the soul-sight, or by dhydna, a spiritual union with the 
object studied in which the truth it expresses dawns on the mind by the 
process of revelation. This he transfers to canvas by letting his inspired 
and informed Will guide the pencil and the brush instead of using his 
intellect or merely technical means to find the best way of expression. He 
uses technique with power, but does not rely on it chiefly. The body he 
paints is the one which will in every part of it express the thing itself, not 
the actual material body which largely conceals it, When he descends into 



the psychical part and seeks to express imaginations, emotions, or passing 
phases, he carries his method with him. Not content with expressing as 
much of the feeling as the actual body reveals, he sees the emotion in its 
fullness by dhydna or soul-sight and forces the body into a mould fit for 
its absolute expression. He sees the soul and paints it or he sees the heart 
or mind and paints it. He sees and, can, if he will, paint the body merely. 
But usually he does not will it. 


What is dhydnat Ordinarily, when a man is absorbed in thought and 
dead to all that is going on around him, he is supposed to be in dhydna. 
Or concentration of the whole thought on a single object to the exclusion 
of every other, is called dhydna. But neither of these ideas corresponds 
exactly with the whole truth; they represent only particular stages of the 
process of meditation. Dhydna is a wide term covering a number of pro- 
cesses which rise from ordinary attention to nirvikalpa samddhi. 

The distinguishing feature of dhydna is that it puts out a steady force 
of knowledge on the object of knowledge. When this process is successful, 
when there is a steady demand on the object to give up its secret, it is called 
by Patarjali sanyama. Even when it is only partially successful, it is called 

Ordinary thought is not dhvdna. Ordinary thought is simply the restless- 
ness of the mind playing with associations^ speculations, trains of reasoning. 
In* order to have cthydna,the restlessness of the mind must be utterly settled, 
the intellect must become like a calm and waveless sea, not a ripple on its 

The principle is that all knowledge is in oneself, in the knower. The 
knower is in myself; he is also in the object of knowledge, e.g., a stone or 
a tree. By dhydna the veil of ignorance, the chaos of misunderstandings 
which interfere between the knower in me and the knower in the tree or 
the stone is removed; we enter into relation with each other; we are in Yoga. 
All knowledge about the stone is in the stone itself; in dhydna it comes 
into my mind. When ?t comes into my mind, the knower in me says: "It 
is true, the knowledge is in me also and I see it there." Or, if there is a 
. mistake, he says> "There is a mistake, the mind is interfering; the knowledge 
is in me and I see it otherwise." 


The whole world is one. The knower in the stone and the knower in 
myself are one; I am He. It is God in me, God in the stone. The know- 
ledge in me and the knowledge in the stone are one; I am that. It is God 
in me, God in the stone. The stone is an object of knowledge, I am also 
an object of knowledge. These two also are one, God as myself, God as 
the stone. God is the only object of knowledge, there is no other. God is 
the only knower, there is no other. God is the knowledge also. Jndtd, 
jndnaniy jneyam, they are one. 

The mind creates difference. When there is disturbance on the waters, 
there are many waves, and each wave cries, "I am I, I am I; you are you; 
we are different." When the sea sinks to rest, the waves as they go inward, 
no longer cry, "I am I", but "I am He." The still and waveless sea, that 
is a delightful and beautiful condition. The stormy 3 myriad-crested ocean, 
that also is a very beautiful and delightful condition. Only let the waves 
have the knowledge, let them say, "I am I for the sake of delight; you are 
you for the sake of delight. But also you are I, I am you. And both you and 
I are He." That is jndnam y that is Yoga. 

The still sea is a condition, and the thousand waves are a condition. 
He who is the sea, is more than disturbance, more than stillness. He contains 
All. He is All. Even the infinite sea is only one of His manifestations. 


The real difficulty is always in ourselves, not in our surroundings. There 
are three things necessary in order to make men invincible, Will, Dis- 
interestedness and Faith. We may have a will to emancipate ourselves, but 
sufficient faith may be lacking. We may have a faith in our ultimate emanci- 
pation, but the will to use the necessary means may be wanting. And even 
if there are will and faith, we may use them w : th a violent attachment to 
the fruit of our work or with passions of hatred, blind excitement or hasty 
forcefulness which may produce evil reactions. For this reason it is neces- 
sary, in a work of such magnitude, to have resort to a higher Power than 
that of mind and body in order to overcome unprecedented obstacles. This 
is the need of sddhand. 

God is within us^, an Omnipotent, Omnipresent, Omniscient Power; 
we and He are of one nature and, if we get into touch with Him and put 
ourselves in His hands, He will pour into us His own forge and we shall 



realise that we too have our share of godhead, our portion of omnipotence, 
omnipresence and omniscience. The path is long, but self-surrender makes 
it short; the way is difficult, but perfect trust makes it easy. 

Will is omnipotent, but it must be divine will, selfless, tranquil, at ease 
about results. "If you had faith even as a grain of mustard-seed," said 
Jesus, "you would say to this mountain, Come, and it would come to you." 
What was meant by the word Faith 3 was really Will accompanied with 
perfect sraddhd. Sraddhd does not reason, it knows; for it commands sight 
and sees what God wills, and it knows that what is God's will, must happen. 
Sraddhd, not blind bur using sight spiritual, can become omniscient. 

Will is also omnipresent. It can throw itself into all in whom it comes 
into contact and give them temporarily or permanently a portion of its 
power, its thought, its enthusiasms. The thought of a solitary man can 
become, by exercise of selfless and undoubting will, the thought of a nation. 
The will of a single hero can breathe courage into the hearts of a million 

This is the sadhana that we have to accomplish. This is the condition 
of our emancipation. We have been using an imperfect will with imperfect 
faith and imperfect disinterestedness. Yet the task we have before us is 
not less difficult than to move a mountain. 

The force that can do it, exists. But it is hidden in a secret chamber 
within us and of that chamber God holds the key. Let us find Him and 
claim it. 

Conversations with the Mother 


HAT is the distinction between peace and silence? How are they 
differentiated from equanimity?" 

Equanimity is a condition of your being which is more or less in reference 
to external things, to the environment and circumstances in the midst of 
which you happen to be. It is the quality of unshakableness in the being 
which nothing touches, nothing affects, which is not subject to reaction 
to any impact from outside upon it. Equanimity fills you with a sense of 
solidity, of absolute security and firmness: it is, indeed, the foundation^ 
the bed-rock on which your Yoga and your new life are to be based. 

Peace and silence are in and of our being and are not related to anything 
outside it. Both of them mean stillness of the being; but silence gives one 
the impression of something deep or high, while peace is something that 
is vast and wide one is, as it were, a vertical and the other a horizontal 
consciousness. Silence opens the way upward, it is the passage to other 
ranges of consciousness beyond; and the more perfect the silence, the higher 
you rise. Peace, on the other hand, gives you a sense of something spherical, 
that is to say, it is a widening of the consciousness to its extreme limits, 
containing and enveloping everything within its embrace. Silence is more 
of the nature of aspiration, while peace is that of poise. Peace is like when 
in climbing up you have reached a definite stage and established yourself 
there; it is something static. But in silence there is something that looks 
forward and awaits. Peace gives you the feeling of an achievement, of 
having accomplished something and being contented with it; silence is 
big with a promise of yet more. 


does the vibration of intense ecstasy affect one's peace and silence?" 
True ecstasy, even of the intensest kind, does not affect either in the 


least. In fact, peace and silence carry in them the very basis of Delight. 
And the more perfect the peace and the silence,, the greater the possibility 
of a more intense delight. There is nothing excited about true ecstasy; 
on the contrary, all excitement serves only to disturb and destroy it. Peace 
and silence are indispensable conditions of real ecstasy. The movement 
first begins with a sense of perfect ease and this sense of ease, as it deepens 
and becomes more and more intense, develops into ecstasy. Ecstasy is 
always something very deep and very calm; it is not a movement belonging 
to the surface consciousness, that brings great excitement or restlessness. 


"Still there is a difference between ecstasy and peace?" 

It is not the same experience that you have in both; but they can go 
together. Peace or silence represents the motionless condition; whatever 
their difference, they come and meet at this point. When you go to the 
extreme limit in both you arrive at this immobility. Peace and silence meet 
and fuse at the farthest borderland of the manifested universe, where you 
are on the point of stepping over to the other side. Now, when to this 
immobility is added the quality of intensity, you have what is called ecstasy. 
Ecstasy is born out of the perfectly balanced union of a high and profound 
and vast calmness with a concentrated intensity. These two movements, 
of calmness and intensity, usually alternate each other and do not appear 
simultaneously in your consciousness. You have a period of wide calmness 
and another of gathered intensity; you do not have them together. But there 
is a stage where you can make them join and unite in something higher and 
more complete and that is ecstasy. Ecstasy is not a movement of the 
vital being; it is far removed from the turmoil and agitation proper to the 
vital nature, it is founded on peace and silence and equanimity. 

God's Labour 



CRI AUROBINDO'S Yoga, it has been said, begins where other yogas 
end. Other yogas end by the attainment of the Brahman or some 
form or mode of it or something akin to it, which means the transcendent 
Reality, the supreme status of the Spirit beyond name and form, beyond 
all particular manifestation. It is the final realisation of the soul in its 
upward ascent, the nee plus ultra. Sri Aurobindo's Yoga takes that poise for 
granted and upon it bases its own development and structure. In other 
words, it works for the descent of the Spirit upon the level from which the 
Spirit worked up. The Mystery of the descent is the whole characteristic 
secret of this Yoga. 

The general idea of a descent of the Spirit, that is to say, the Divine, 
the conception of avatara and avatarana is, of course, not new. But here 
there is a difference. Avatara or Avatarana in the older disciplines was 
more or less an intervention of God as God, the working of a Force come 
specifically in the midst of the world circumstances, maintaining still its 
divine transcendental character, to work out a given problem, accomplish 
a special mission and then, when the work is done, retire to its own status. 
It is, as it were, a weapon of flame and light hurled into the earthly fray 
even like the discus of Vishnu and having accomplished its mission, 
going back into the hand of the thrower, its fount and origin. The task of 
the Avatara was usually bhubhara-harana, lightening earth's load: it means 
removing the sinful and preserving the virtuous, re-establishing the reign 
of Law. Esoterically, he also embodied the Way to spiritual fulfilment. 
There was no question of saving humanity it was more serving than 
saving by transfiguring it, giving it a new body and life and mind, nor 
was there any idea of raising the level of earth-consciousness. 

The Divine acts in three different ways in his three well-known aspects. 


As the transcendent Reality he is above and beyond creation, he is the 
Unmanifest, although he may hold within either involved or dissolved the 
entire manifestation. Next, he is the manifestation the cosmic or the uni- 
versal; he is one with creation, immanent in it, still its master, and lord. 
Finally, he has an individual aspect: he is a Person with whom human beings 
can enter into relations of love and service. The Divine incarnate as a 
human being, is a special manifestation of the Individual Divine, Even then, 
as an embodied earthly person, he may act in a way characteristic of any 
of the three aspects. The Divine descended upon earth, as viewed by Sri 
Aurobindo, does not come in his transcendental aspect, fundamentally 
aloof and away, in his absolute power and consciousness, working miracles 
here; for transcendence can do nothing but that in the midst of conditions 
left as they are. Nor does he manifest himself only as his cosmic power 
and consciousness, embedded in the creation and all-pervading, exercising 
his influence through the pressure of Universal Law, perhaps in a con- 
centrated form, still working gradually^ step by step, as though through a 
logical process, for the maintenance of the natural order and harmony, 
lokasamgraha. God can be more than that, individualised in a special, even 
a human sense. His individual being can and does hold within itself his 
cosmic and transcendental self covertly in a way but overtly too in a singular 
manner at the same time. The humanised personality of the Divine with 
his special role and function is at the very centre of Sri Aurobindo's solution 
of the world enigma. The little poem "God's Labour" in its short compass 
outlines and explains beautifully the grand Mystery. 

The usual idea of God (as the theists hold, for example) is that he is an 
infinite eternal impassible being, aloof from human toils and earthly tur- 
moils, himself untouched by these and yet, in and through them, directing 
the world for an inscrutable purpose, unless it is for leaning towards it 
and stretching out the hand of Grace to those of the mortals who wish to come 
out of the nightmare of life, sever the coils of earthly existence. But the 
Divine in order to be and remain divine need not hold to his seat above 
and outside the creation, severely separated from his creatures. He can, 
on the contrary, become truly the ordinary man and labour as all others, 
yet maintaining his divinity and being conscious of it. After all, is not 
man, every human being, built in the same pattern, a composite of the 
earthly human element supported and infused by a secret divine element? 
However, God, the individual Divine, does become man, one of them and 
one with them. Only, his labour thereby increases manifold, hard and 
heavy, although for that very reason full of a bright rich multiple promise. 
The Divine's self-humanisation has for it a double purpose: (i) to show 



man by example how he can become what he truly is, how he can divinise 
himself: the Divine as man lives out the life of a sadhaka wholly and com- 
pletely; (2) to help concretely by his own force of consciousness the world 
and man in their endeavour for progress and evolution, to give the help 
wholly and completely from the innermost status of the self down to the 
most external physical body and the material field. This help again is a 
twofold function. The first is to make available, gather within easy reach, 
the high realisations, the spiritual treasures that are normally stored in a 
heaven somewhere else. The Divine Man brings down the divine attributes 
close to our earth, turns them from mere far possibilities into near probab- 
ilities, even imminent realities. They are made part and parcel, constituent 
elements of the earthly atmosphere, so that one has only to open one's mouth 
to breathe in, extend one's arms to seize and possess them: even to this 
opening and this gesture man is helped by the concrete touch and presence 
of the Divine. Further, the help and succour come in another way which 
is more intimate, more living and appealing to man. 

A great mystery of existence, its central rub is the presence of Evil. All 
spiritual, generally all human endeavour has to face and answer this Sphinx. 
As he answers, so will be his fate. He cannot rise up even if he wishes, 
earth cannot progress even when there is the occasion, because of this 
besetting obstacle. It has many names and many forms. It is Sin or Satan in 
Christianity; Buddhism calls it Mara. In India it is generally known as 
Maya. Grief and sorrow, weakness and want, disease and death are its 
external and ubiquitous forms. It is a force of gravitation, as graphically 
named by a modern Christian mystic, that pulls man down, fixes him upon 
earth with its iron law of mortality, never allowing him to mount high and 
soar in the spiritual heavens. It has also been called the Wheel of Karma or 
the cycle of Ignorance. And the aim of all spiritual seekers has been to rise 
out of it somehow, by force of tapasya, energy of concentrated will or 
divine Grace go through or by-pass and escape into the Beyond. This is 
the path of ascent I referred to at the outset. In this view it is taken for 
granted that this creation is transient and empty of happiness anityam 
asukham (Gita) it is anatta, empty of self or consciousness (Buddha) and 
it will be always so. The only way to deal with it, the way of the wise, is to 
discard it and pass over. 

Sri Aurobindo's view is different. He says Evil can be and has to be 
conquered here itself, here upon this earth and in this body the ancients 
also said, ihaiva tairjitah, they have conquered even here, praksharira- 
vimokshanat, before leaving the body. You have to face Evil full-square and 
conquer it, conquer it not in the sense that you simply rise above it so that 



it no longer touches you, but that you remain where you are in the very 
field of Evil and drive it out from there completely, erase and annihilate it 
where it was reigning supreme. Hence God has to come down from his 
heaven and dwell here upon earth and among men and in the conditions of 
mortality, show thus by his living and labour that this earthly earth can be 
transformed into a heavenly earth and this human body into a "body divine". 

Matter or the physical body is not by itself the centre of gravity of the 
human consciousness; it is not that that pins the soul or the self to the life 
of pain and misery and incapacity and death. Matter is not the Evil, nor 
made up of Evil; it contains or harbours evil under the present circumstances, 
even as dross is mixed up, inextricably as it appears, with the noble metal 
in the natural ore; but the dross can be eradicated and the free metal 
brought out, pure and noble in its, own true nature. It is, as Rumi, the 
Persian mystic, says in his famous imagery, like a piece of iron, dull and 
dismal to look at, but when put into fire slowly acquires the quality of fire, 
turning into a glowing and radiant beauty, yet maintaing its original form 
and individuality and concrete, even material reality. Now, the crust or 
dross that has to be eliminated in Matter is called by Sri Aurobindo 
"Inconscience". Matter is inconscient, therefore it is unconscious and igno- 
rant. Make it conscious, ft will be radiant and full of knowledge. That is the 
great transformation needed, the only way to true and total reformation. 
The Divine descends into Matter precisely to work out that transformation. 

It is a long dredging process, tedious and arduous, requiring the utmost 
patience and perseverance, even to the absolute degree. For Inconscience, 
in essence, although a contingent reality, local and temporal, and therefore 
transient, is nonetheless the hardest, most obdurate and resistant reality: 
it lies thick and heavy upon the human vehicle. It is massed layer upon 
layer. Its first formation in the higher altitudes of the mind is perhaps like 
a thin fluid deposit; it begins as an individualised separative consciousness 
stressing more and more its exclusiveness. Through the lower ranges of the 
mind and the vitality it crystallises and condenses gradually; in the worlds 
of thinking and feeling^ enjoying and dynamic activity, it has still a malleable 
and mixed consistency, but when it reaches and possesses the physical 
being, it becomes the impervious solid obscurity that Matter presents. 

The root of the Cosmic Evil is in Matter. From there it shoots up and 
overshadows the upper layers of our being and consciousness. Even if the 
mind is cleaned, the vital cleared, still if the physical consciousness is not 
sufficiently probed into, purified and reclaimed, then nothing permanent is 
done, one would build upon sand. A1J efforts, spiritual or other, at the 
regeneration and reformation of mankind and a good many individual 

3 1 


endeavours too have come to a sorry end, because the foundation was not 
laid sufficiently deep and secure. One must dig into Matter as far down as 
possible like Rishi Agastya in the Veda even to the other end. For there 
is another mystery there, perhaps the Mystery of mysteries. The deeper 
you go down into Matter, as you clear up the jungle and bring in the higher 
light, you discover and unlock strange and mighty energies of consciousness 
secreted there, even like the uranium pile in the atomic world. It is revealed 
to you that Inconscience is not total absence of consciousness, it is simply 
consciousness asleep, in-gathered, entranced. And this nether consciousness 
is, after all, one with the supreme Consciousness. It is itself the best weapon 
to bring about its own transformation. Not only the higher self, but the 
lower self too must be salvaged and saved by its own selfatmana atmanam 


The Divine brings down with himself his shaft of light, and the light, as it 
spreads, begins to scatter and dissolve the clouds of ignorance. The Divine 
comes here below and as he formulates and concentrates his consciousness 
in or as an individualised channel, the power of tfee consciousness becomes 
dynamic and concrete and works out the desired change in the material 
plane. In the descent the Divine has to assume the lower potentials on the 
inferior levels and this involves an apparent veiling and lessening of his 
higher and divine degrees. In other words, the Divine in becoming human 
accepts and embraces in that embodiment all that humanity normally means, 
its weaknesses and frailties, its obstacles and difficulties, all the ignorance 
and inconscience. This sacrifice he has agreed to, has undertaken in order 
to create out of it a golden body, a radiant matter, a heavenly or divinised 

God made man, the spirit become flesh: this is Grace, the benediction of 
the Holy One upon the sinful earth. The working of Grace in one of its 
characteristic movements has been beautifully envisaged in esoteric Chris- 
tianity. The burden of sin that is to say, of weakness, impurity and igno- 
rancelies so heavy upon man, the force of gravitation is so absolute, that 
it is divine intervention alone, and in the most physical sense, which can 
save him. God takes upon himself man's load and relieves him of it: thus 
freed he can soar up easily and join the company of the Happy in heaven 
alongside God. This is the ransom paid by God to His Enemy, the vicarious 
atonement suffered by the Divine, the cross he has to bear when he comes 
upon this earth., into this vale of tears. It is said, in terms of human feeling, 



pity so moved him that he left the happy abode of heaven, came down among 
men and lived like one of them, sharing the*r sorrow and pain and. what is 
divine, taking up the evil into himself, drinking, as it were, out of the poi- 
soned bowl, so that man, frail mortal creature, may escape his doom. 

This way too, as all other ways, has indeed been the way of escape. God 
came down in order to take away some men with him. They were the blessed 
ones, but the normal humanity remains as it is, as it has beer, on the whole. 
The few that pass beyond do not seem to leave any trace here below. 
There was no regeneration of mankind, no reformation of earthly life. 

Sri Aurobindo aims at a power of consciousness, a formulation of the 
divine being that is integral. It takes up the whole man and it embraces 
all men: it works on a cosmic scale individually and collectively. That 
force of consciousness identifies itself with each and every individual being 
in all its parts and limbs; establishing itself in and working through their 
normal and habitual functionings, moulds and refashions the earthly vessel. 
It is a global power, first of all, because it is the supreme creative Power, 
the original energy of consciousness that brought out this manifested uni- 
verse, the matrix or the nodus thaf holds together and in an inviolable un ; ty 
and harmony the fundamental truth-aspects of the one and indivisible Reality 
This luminous source and substance of all created things consists of their 
basic true truths which assume disguised and deformed appearances under 
the present conditions of the world. It is therefore, in the second instance, 
the secret power in created things which manifests in them as the evolu- 
tionary urge, which drives them to rediscover their reality and re-form 
the appearance as the direct expression and embodiment of this inner soul. 

The Divine incarnates, as an individual in the concrete material actuality, 
this double aspect of the utter truth and reality. There are, what may be 
called, intermediary incarnations, some representing powers aspects of the 
Divine in the higher mental or overmental levels of consciousness, others 
those of the inner heart, yet others again those of the dynamic vital con- 
sciousness. But the integral Divine, he who unites and reconciles in his 
body the highest height and the lowest depth, who has effectuated in him 
something like the "marriage of Heaven and Hell" is an event of the future 
even perhaps of the immediate future. The descent into hell is an image 
that has been made very familiar to man, but all its implications have not 
been sounded. For what we were made familiar with was more or less an 
image of hell, not hell itself, a region or experience in the vital (may be 
even in the mental): real hell is not the mass of desires or weaknesses of 
the flesh, not "living flesh", but dead Matter whose other name is 
Inconscience. In the older disciplines the central or key truth, the heart of 



reality where the higher and the lower Brahman and Maya, the Absolute 
and the Contingency, the One and the Many, God and the World met 
and united in harmony was by-passed: one shot from below right into the 
supreme Absolute; the matrix of truth-creation was ignored. Even so, at 
the other end, the reality of brute matter was not given sufficient weight, 
the spiritual light disdained to reach it (vijigupsate). 

The integral Divine not merely suffers (as in the Christian tradition) 
a body material, He accepts it in his supernal delight, for it is his own 
being and substance: it is He in essence and it will become He in actuality. 
When he comes into the world, it is not as though it were a foreign country; 
he comes to his own, only he seeks to rebuild it on another scale, the scale of 
unity and infinity, instead of the present scale of separativism and finiteness. 
He comes among men not simply because he is moved by human miseries; 
he is no extra-terrestrial person, a bigger human being, but is himself this 
earth, this world, all these miseries; he is woven into the fabric of the uni- 
verse, he is the warp and woof that constitute creation. It is not a mere 
movement of sympathy or benevolence that actuates him, it is a total and 
absolute identification that is the ground and motive of his activity. When 
he assumes the frame of mortality, it is not that something outside and totally 
incongruous is entering into him, it is pan and parcel of himself, it is himself 
in one of his functions and phases. Consequently, his work in and upon 
the material world and life may be viewed as that of self-purification and 
self-illumination, self-discipline and self-realisation. Also, the horrors of 
material existence, being part of the cosmic play and portion of his infinity, 
naturally find shelter in the individual divine incarnation, are encompassed 
in his human embodiment. It is the energy of his own consciousness that 
brought out or developed even this erring earth from within it: that same 
energy is now available, stored up in the individual formation, for the re- 
creation of that earth. The advent and acceptance of material existence 
meant, as a kind of necessity in a given scheme of divine manifestation, the 
appearance and play of Evil, the negation of the very divinity. Absolute 
Consciousness brought forth absolute unconsciousness the inconscient 
because of its own self-pressure, a play of an increasingly exclusive con- 
centration and rigid objectivisation. That same consciousness repeats its 
story in the individual incarnation : it plunges into the material life and matter 
and identifies itself with Evil. But it Is then like a pressed or tightened 
spring; it works at its highest potential. In other words, the Divine in the 
body now works to divinise the body itself, to make of the negation a con- 
crete affirmation. The inconscient will be embodied consciousness. 

The humanist said, "Nothing human I reckon foreign to me". In a deeper 



and more absolute sense the divine Mystic of the integral Yoga says the same. 
He is indeed humanity incarnate, the whole mankind condensed and epi- 
tomised in his single body. Mankind as embedded in ignorance and incons- 
cience, the conscious soul lost in the dark depths of dead matter, is he and 
his whole labour consists in working in and through that obscure "gravi- 
tational" mass, to evoke and bring down the totality of the superconscient 
force, the creative delight which he is essentially in his inmost and topmost 
being. The labour within himself is conterminous with the cosmic labour, 
and the change effected in his being and nature means a parallel change in 
the world outside, at least a ready possibility of the change. All the pains 
and weaknesses normal humanity suffers from, the heritage of an inconscient 
earthly existence, the Divine takes into his incarnated body all and more 
and to the highest degree into a crucible as it were, and works out there the 
alchemy. The natural man individually shares also each other's burden in 
some way, for all are interconnected in life action at one point has a re- 
action at all other points: only the sharing is done unconsciously and is 
suffered or imposed than accepted and it tends to be at a minimum. An 
ordinary mortal would break under a greater pressure. It is the Avatar 
who comes forward and carries on his shoulders the entire burden of earthly 

Suffering, incapacity and death are, it is said, the wages of earthly life; 
but they are, in fact, reverse aspects of divine truths. Whatever is here 
below has its divine counterpart above. What appears as matter, inertia, 
static existence here below is the devolution of pure existence, being or 
substance up there. Life-force, vital dynamism here is the energy of con- 
sciousness there. The pleasure of the heart and emotions and enjoyment 
is divine delight. Finally, our mind with its half-lighted thinking power, 
its groping after knowledge has at its back the plenary light of the Super- 
mind. So the aim is not to reject or withdraw from the material, vital and 
mental existence upon the earth and in this body, but house in them, make 
them concrete vehicles^ expressions and embodiments of what they really are. 

Pain and suffering, disease and incapacity, even age and death are fortui- 
tous auxiliaries; they have come upon us simply because of the small and 
partial scale of our life to which we agreed. One can live here below, live a 
full life, upon a larger scale, upon the scale of infinity and eternity. That 
need not dissolve body and life and mind, the triple ranges that make up 
our earthly existence. In brief, man himself is not truly man, he is the 
reverse aspect of God; and when he becomes divine and remains not merely 
human, he but realises what he is truly and integrally himself. 


Space, Time and Eternity 


A PRECISE determination of the nature of space and time is essential 
"^ to anything approaching a fairly adequate philosophic vision of 
Reality. Space and time are inalienable features of the world of our common 
experience and yet philosophy insists upon the infinity and eternity of 
knowledge in the strict sense of the term. Philosophy not only aims at 
transcending the limitations of space and time in respect of its subjective 
vision, but is also inspired by the conviction that ultimate reality must in 
its deepest essence be non-spatial and non-temporal, infinite and eternal. 
It is therefore only natural that the problems of space and time should 
figure very prominently in all philosophic discussion. Our knowledge 
begins with space and time, but it invariably aims at getting beyond the 
limits of space and time in its search after the Infinite and the Eternal. 
An attempt has been made in the present paper to show that space and time, 
viewed in the right perspective, are two inseparably conrected media of 
self-expression, as Sri Aurobindo maintains, of the one non-spatial and non- 
temporal Spirit (Brahman). A running survey of different representative 
philosophical theories about space and time considered in their logical 
development will be found to lead on to this grand synthetic position. 

There are a number of interesting questions about space and time. How 
are space and time related to each other, and how are they related to the 
observer? Are space and time finite or are they infinite? Are they discrete or 
continuous? How are they related to matter, or else to the most primordial 
form of existence, whatever its nature may be? How do the ideas of space 
and time originate and develop in the human mind? What is the precise 
metaphysical status of space and time? Are they only modes of apprehension, 
forms of knowledge, or functions of mental activity? Or else, do they enjoy 
an independent objective reality of their own? If space and time be subjective 
or unreal, are they entirely so, or is there anything corresponding to them in 
the structure of ultimate reality? If space and time be objectively real, how 



are they precisely related to the ultimate metaphysical principle, the Abso- 
lute or the supreme Spirit? Between the non-temporal and non-spatial 
status of the Absolute on the one hand, and the objectively real march of 
events in space-time on the other, is there not an essential incompatibility? 
The psychological question concerning the origin and development of 
the notions of space and time in our mind is of no decisive importance in a 
metaphysical determination of their nature. An idea may be original for 
psychology, but that affords no reason why it should be regarded either as 
real or as unreal. Again, simply because an idea is psychologically derived 
from simpler elements, one should have no justification for dismissing it 
as illusory. If an idea were, as Bradley points out, "a legitimate construction 
from elements that were true, then it might be derived only for our know- 
ledge, and be original in fact." 1 It requires no extraordinary insight to 
realise that the psychological history of an idea can have no definitive bearing 
upon its ontological status. Attempts have been made to derive space from 
motor experiences or tactuo-muscular sensations, and to derive time from 
experiences of successive events, or from the deliverances of perception, 
memory and anticipation. But Kant has exploded the naive supposition 
that such attempts really amount to a derivation of space and time from 
elements which are non-spatial and non-temporal. Experiences of movement 
and succession already presuppose the notions of space and time, and can- 
not claim to produce them de novo. Genetic theories concerning them are 
at best accounts of their psychological development, accounts of their gra- 
dual assumption of a distinct and articulate form in the human mind. The 
opposite view that space and time are a priori forms of perception the 
epistemological prius of objective experience can hardly be accepted as 
a final pronouncement upon their intrinsic nature. If space and time be 
entirely subjective, how can they be imposed upon an absolutely alien 
manifold of intuition which is non-spatial and non-temporal in character? 
Why should such a manifold of intuition submit to the arbitrary dictation 
of a foreign authority? The core of truth contained in the above view seems 
to be that space and time are the most pervasive features of our normal 
experience. If we want to determine their ontological status, we must 
institute an independent critical examination of their nature as we perceive 
them, and we must examine them in their relations to other factors of 
experience. The metaphysic of space and time would require a balanced 
consideration of their nature in the context of our total experience, the 
experience that embraces the mystic's realisation of the non-temporal on 

1 "Appearance and Reality", p.s6. 



the one hand, and the ordinary mortal's entanglement in the temporal on 
the other. 


Recent developments in Physics have made some valuable contributions 
to our conception of space and time. Before the discovery of the theory of 
Relativity, scientists stood committed to what is known as "the absolute 
theory of space and time". Space and time were supposed to be two inde- 
pendent variables or disconnected media. Space is one vast medium in 
which an endless plurality of material objects exist together. Time is another 
vast medium in which an endless procession of events occur in succession. 
Space is represented as the absolute locus of all physical objects. Time is 
pictorially represented as a stream continuously flowing through all the 
points of space taken together. The movement of the stream of time through 
all the points of space taken together gives rise to the notion of absolute 
simultaneity. The vast extension of space conceived as independent of the 
flow of time gives rise to the notion of instantaneous co-existence. These 
notions of instantaneous space or co-existence and absolute simultaneity 
are essential elements in the absolute theory of space and time. The doctrine 
of relativity has however exploded these notions and exhibited them as but 
popular fictions. Einstein has demonstrated that events which appear 
simultaneous to one observer can very well appear successive to another 
observer. To an observer on earth, for example, a shooting star and an 
earthquake may seem to be simultaneous, but to an observer in the moon 
the phenomenon of the shooting star would appear earlier than the pheno- 
menon of earthquake. This shows that time is relative to space, that is, 
to the position of the observer in space. Then again, there are no fixed 
static positions in space. The portion of space which a man occupies in 
the morning is not the same portion of space which he would occupy at 
noon, even though he remains all the while shut up within his bedroom. 
Tfiis is because the man in question is constantly moving with the earth, 
however stationary he may appear to be in relation to his room. Now, 
movement in itself is no absolute quantity. The earth is said to be in motion 
in relation to the sun and other celestial bodies, just as a running train is 
said to be in motion in relation to some portion of the earth. Had there been 
absolute motion, that would have implied fixed positions in absolute space, 
whatever the practical difficulties in the way of ascertaining such positions. 
But can we not think of absolute space, and may it not be possible to obtain 
the measurement of absolute motion of a thing by reference to the 



substance of space, if any? It has really been suggested that there is an eter- 
nally fixed and immovable substance pervading the whole of space, namely, 
ether, and that absolute motion may be determined in relation to ether. 
Motion through ether yes, that would at last give us something absolute. 
The famous Michelson-Morley experiment represents the last desperate 
attempt to measure the earth's absolute motion through ether. The experi- 
ment is unparalleled in the history of scientific measurement in respect 
of marvellous precision and ingenious design. But every time the experiment 
was carried through it yielded a nul result. Lorentz and Fitzgerald put 
forward the hypothesis that every material body contracts in a definite, 
degree in the direction of its line of motion. It was by this hypothesis of 
contraction that they sought to account for the result of their experiment 
in conformity with their faith in an all-pervasive immovable ether in space. 
But this was a line of thinking which soon involved the scientist in a laby- 
rinth of endless self-contradictions. It required the genius of Einstein to 
expose thoroughly the futility of all such desperate search after absolute 
motion, and to give the final go-by to the concepts of absolute space and 
all-pervasive immovable ether. Einstein demonstrated beyond all shadow 
of doubt the epoch-making truth that space is relative to time, and time 
is relative to space, and that both space and time are relative to the special 
circumstances of the observer. They are however, relative not to the mind 
of the observer, but to his body, to the spatio-temporal position which 
the observer's body occupies. To quote the words of Whitehead, "It is 
the observer's body that we want, and not his mind. Even this body is 
only useful as an example of a familiar form of apparatus." 1 The plain 
significance of Einstein's theory of relativity is that all physical concepts 
including space, time, motion, velocity, mass, energy, etc. are relative 
quantities; they are relative to the physical apparatuses of instruments of 
measurement. We are, however, concerned at the present moment with 
space and time. The chief contribution of the doctrine of relativity may 
be put in a word by saying that it substitutes space-time for space and time. 
Time is often described as the fourth dimension of space. Better still, it 
may be said that according to relativity-Physics the fundamental thing 
is one four-dimensional continuum of which space and time are inseparable 
aspects. Minkowski points out that though space and time taken separately 
are relative, space-time is absolute. Although different observers inhabit 
different spaces and times, they all inhabit the same space-time. Different 
observers may disagree as to the space separating two particulars, or as to 

1 "Science and the Modem World", p. 149. 



the time separating two events, but they all get the same value for the "inter- 
val" separating two events. This interval or spatio-temporal distance 
between two events is affirmed to be an absolute characteristic of them. 
If the universe is regarded as a four-dimensional continuum, then the 
spaces and times of different observers are nothing more than different 
sections, as it were, of this continuum. The interval, on whose value all 
observers are agreed, is split up, owing to their different motions, into 
different space and time components. 1 

It is a perverse misconception of the theory of relativity to discover in 
it scientific corroboration of the subjectivist interpretation of the universe. 
In order to guard against misunderstandings of this nature, it has been 
suggested that the theory of relativity should be characterised, paradoxical 
though it may sound, as the theory of absolutes. Having discarded the 
4 'absolutes" of pre-relativity physics, it shows the way how to isolate those 
absolute features of the world which are entirely independent of the ob- 
server's mind. Einstein has succeeded, as Sullivan points out, "in expressing 
the laws of nature in a form which is the same for all observers, whatever 
their motions, and whatever their systems of measurement." 2 It has been 
seen in the preceding paragraph how the notions of spatial distance and 
temporal gap have been replaced in relativity physics by the concept of 
spatio-temporal 'interval' which is accepted as an absolute characteristic 
of events. But though physical characteristics of events may 'be expressed 
in a form which is the same for all observers, that does not entail that they 
are intrinsic characteristics of things in themselves. All physical concepts 
are in the last analysis relative to physical apparatuses or instruments of 
measurement in general. That is why Eddington contends that they are 
in the last analysis "schedules of pointer-readings". For a thorough grasp 
of the implications of the theory of relativity, one must steer clear of the 
opposite extremes of subjectivist construction on the one hand and realistic 
exaltation on the other. 



There are some other important truths about space-time which have 
been brought out by modern physics. We hear today of the "curvature" 
of space-time. Einstein believes space to be governed not by Euclidean 
geometry, but by Reimannian geometry. The space-time continuum is 

1 "Sullivan's Bases of Modern Science", p. 166. 

2 ibid., p. 180. 



said to be a curved continuum, though it may not be uniformly curved 
everywhere. There are different degrees of curvature in different parts of 
space-time. The curvature of space-time is most prominent around large 
masses, for there the gravitational effects are most marked. Gravitational 
effects are indeed entirely due to the curvature of space, and must not be 
attributed, as Newton did, to any mysterious force of gravity. According 
to one school of thought, and this is supported by Einstein, matter is funda- 
mental, and it is the presence of matter that causes the curvature of space- 
time. Without matter the whole universe would have shrunk to a single 
point. But according to a second school of thought, it is the space-time 
continuum which is fundamental. The local peculiarities of space-time 
manifest themselves to our senses in the form we call matter. Curvature 
is not the effect of matter. 


The idea of the curvature of space-time brings us to Einstein's theory 
of "spherical space." We know that by its regular curvature the earth is 
able to close itself, and so avoid any "end" or "edge" of the world. Similar 
is the case with the v/hole of space. Just as every straight line that is started 
upon the surface of the earth returns upon itself, so also every light-ray 
that fares forth into space must eventually return tipon itself. "Just as 
the earth contrives in two dimensions to close itself again by regular cur- 
vature, so space contrives to avoid any "end of space, and the universe to 
enclose a finite content. The diameter of the universe amounts or rather, 
at one time amounted to 2000 million light years." 1 Now, space being 
spherical, it follows that it is not infinite but rather a "boundless finite". 
Space is boundless in as much as it is capable of closing itself and thus 
avoiding any end or edge; it is finite because every ray of light that fares 
forth in space must eventually return upon itself. The supreme paradox 
of modern physics is reached when it is held that the sphere or supersphere 
of space is not a stable equilibrium but is ever growing and expanding. 
It is an admitted fact of astronomical observation that the spiral nebulae 
are unanimously running away from us. Every nebula is indeed fleeing from 
every other: And the further they are away from each other, the faster they 
travel ! But it is difficult to understand why the nebulae should go tearing 
through space at such a terrific rate. The remotest of the nebulae are said 

1 "You and the Universe", by Paul Karison, p. 218. 



to increase the distance between us by 16000 miles per hour. Moreover, 
if the space is really a closed system, where are the nebulae madly trying 
to go? The theory that is advanced today to meet the situation is that 
nebulae are not racing through space at all space itself is running away with 
them. 1 Just as a soap-bubble or a great toy balloon can grow ever larger 
and larger, so also the whole spatio-temporal system is awlays expanding. 

But is the concept of a finite expanding universe or space-time structure 
comprehensible to our reason? If space is finite, it must be possible to go 
out beyond this finite space, and what can we possibly find beyond it except 
more space, and so on ad infinitum? which proves that space cannot be 
finite. Again if space is expanding, what can it possibly expand into, if not 
into more space? which again proves that what is expanding can only be 
a part of space, so that the whole of space cannot expand. 2 Considerations 
like the above are of crucial importance in determining the precise signi- 
ficance of the physical concepts we are dealing with. The aforesaid 
objections proceed from the assumption that the universe admits of material 
or pictorial representation. They derive their force from the nineteenth- 
century way of thinking. Had the concept of a finite and expanding universe 
been a faithful pictorial representation of the internal structure of an objective 
reality, then the objections would have been simply irrefutable. But, most 
of the scientific theories are, it is realised today, no more than conventional 
formulae or pragmatic devices. Space-time conceived as finite, curved 
and expanding, is, as Jeans puts it, just a mental concept. It is found prag- 
matically valid or useful for the explanation of observed phenomena, and 
that is the end of the matter. It is by no means to be treated as a sensuous 
representation of the nature of the objective world. Nor should it be so 
construed as to suggest that modern physics had idealised space-time. 
The truth is that modem physics leaves open the metaphysical question 
about the intrinsic nature of space-time. The laws of physics are in point 
of fact laws about the behaviour of events in space-time, and not expressions 
o( the essence of space-time. They do not constitute, nor do they entail, 
any idealistic theory of space and time, although an idealistic theory would 
not be incompatible with them. 

A determination of the type of reality that belongs to space and time 
would depend, as we have remarked, upon a critical examination of their 
nature in the context of our total experience. It is not possible to enter 
here into a detailed consideration of the various arguments that have given 

lce You and the Universe", by Paul Karison, p. 227. 

2 "The Mysterious Universe", by Sir James Jeans, p.i68. (Pelican Books). 



logical shape to the different philosophic theories about space and time. 
We propose therefore to make, first of all, a rapid survey of the attitudes of 
some important schools of thought, and then to indicate the position of Inte- 
gral Idealism, the philosophy of Sri Aurobindo, in regard to the matter. 


Empirical thinkers such as Berkeley, Hume, Mill and others maintain that 
space and time are abstract concepts generalised from concrete and parti- 
cular experiences. The notion of space is generalised from the ideas of 
co-existence derived from tactuo-muscular sensations. The notion of 
empty space is a derivative of the sensations of unresisted movement, and 
the notion of filled space is a derivative of the sensations of resisted move- 
ment. Similarly, the notion of time is generalised from the experiences 
of 'before 5 and 'after', the experiences of successive and simultaneous 
events. But a little reflection will show that space and time cannot be merely 
generalised concepts. Space cannot be a mere generalisation from the 
outwardness of things and their movement, because both outwardness and 
movement already involve or presuppose the idea of space. Similarly, time 
cannot be a mere generalisation from the experiences of simultaneous and 
successive events, because the latter type of experience, i.e., apprehension 
of events as occurring together or in the order of before and after, already 
presupposes the notion of time. 

Leibnitz looks upon space as an accident of our confused perception of 
the non-spatial objective reality. In his view, the ultimate constituents of 
the universe are absolutely non-extended spiritual atoms which he calls 
monads. Space is not an objective entity, but just a phenomenal appearance 
arising from our confused perception of the co-existence of monads owing 
to the inherent limitations of our nature. Now, if there is an endless plura- 
lity of monads existing outside of my perception, and existing one outside 
of another, that means that there is some sort of objective extension, some 
sort of medium for reciprocal exclusion of co-existent objective realities. 
And such objective extension or reciprocal extension is indeed the essence 
of space. True, we usually associate space with matter. But close reflection 
upon the nature of space will reveal that there can hardly be any valid objec- 
tion to the reality of non-material space or to a spiritual exclusion of con- 
sciousness. It may be said that even though there may be spiritual extension 
of consciousness reciprocal exclusion m respect of existence is the distinc- 
tive and exclusive characteristic of matter, and cannot belong to the spirit. 
But in that case, the whole Leibnitzian theory of a plurality of mutually 



exclusive and "windowless" monads falls to the ground. We may sum up 
the situation as follows. If space is in its essence extension, then it is not 
necessarily material, but may quite possibly be in its ultimate truth some 
spiritual extension of consciousness. If, however, the essence of space be 
not extension, but reciprocal exclusion of existence, as some philosophers 
maintain, then the non-spatial spirit cannot be an assemblage of mutually 
exclusive units like monads. 


Kant is the most celebrated exponent of the theory of space and time 
as subjective. They are, in his judgment, subjective not in the sense of 
being arbitrary, private or illusory. They are subjective in so far as they 
have no independent existence of their own apart from human perception. 
They cannot be proclaimed to be intrinsic features of reality in itself. They 
are regarded by Kant as necessary forms of human perception; they, are, 
in Kant's words, a priori forms of intuition. This means that our sensi- 
bility is so constituted that we are under the inescapable necessity of per- 
ceiving all things in space and time, just as a jaundiced person or a person 
with blue spetacles on is under the necessity of perceiving all things as yellow 
or blue. That which is immediately given to us or presented to our sensi- 
bility is what Kant calls a "manifold of intuition". The manifold of intuition 
is first unified in space and time. This unification or initial ordering of the 
chaotic mass of sensations is effected by means of space and time so that 
they may be further arranged and unified by the categories of the under- 
standing. Since space and time are necessary forms of our intuition, and not 
arbitrary concepts generalised from sensations, it is but natural that they 
should enjoy objective validity so far as human experience extends. They are 
public and not private; they may be said to be elements in the framework of 
the world of our experience despite the fact that they are subjective. In Kant's 
terminology, they are empirically ' real, but transcendentally ideal. Kant's 
reasons for regarding space and time as subjective are briefly as follows. 
First, space and time cannot be treated as empirical concepts derived 
from experiences of outwardness and juxtaposition, and those of 
simultaneity and successiveness, because the latter forms of experience 
are themselves impossible without the presuppositions of space and 
time. Secondly, we can think of space and time as empty of all phenomena, 
but we cannot think of phenomena apart from space and time. This 
clearly shows that space and time are necessary representations a priori. 
Thirdly, space and time are infinite and continuous wholes. Now, 



since whatever is an object of perception or experience is finite and limited, 
they cannot be objects of perception, but must rather be a priori forms of 
the act of perception. Infinity is more a function of mental activity than a 
datum of mental apprehension. Then again, the relation between the finite 
spaces and the one infinite space, or the relation between the finite times 
and the one infinite time, is not identically the same as the relation between 
component parts and their integral whole, because no amount of addition 
of finite terms can produce a genuine infinity. Nor can the relation in ques- 
tion be analagous to that between a general concept and its particular instances 
because finite spaces and times do not contain infinite space and infinite time, , 
and cannot therefore be regarded as their particular exemplifications. So space 
and time, infinite and unlimited wholes that they are, can be posited only 
as modes of apprehension or as functions of the faculty of sensibility, and 
not as objects of perception. Fourthly, it is only if space and time be a 
priori forms of intuition that the truths of geometry, which deals with the 
properties of space, and the truths of arithmetic which deals with the pro- 
perties of time, or of number which arises from successive movements in 
time, can be universal and necessary. Had space and time been objects of 
perception, the truths of geometry and arithmetic would have been contin- 
gent and probable only. 

The foundations of Kant's arguments for the subjectivity of space and 
time have however been rudely shaken by the remarkable advance of scien- 
tific knowledge in the subsequent period. With regard to Kant's first argu- 
ment it is now pointed out that we can apprehend sense-data along with 
spatial and temporal characters. Perception of extended surfaces and 
enduring events does not, it is now argued, presuppose the notions of infinite 
space and infinite time functioning as antecedent media. The latter can 
very well be exhibited as constructions obtained by the unconscious correla- 
tion of perceptual spaces and times which are all finite. The second Kantian 
argument has been refuted by a flat contradiction of the facts of experience 
to which it makes an appeal. Kant says that we can think of space or 
extension as empty of all sensible objects or as eviscerated of all secondary 
qualities. But modern psychology points out that extension without some 
sensuous content which is extended is a psychological monstrosity. Ex- 
tension cannot be thought of, says Bradley, "without thinking at the same 
time of a 'what' that is extended. And not only is this so, but particular 
differences, such as 'up and down', 'right and left', are necessary to the 
terms of the spatial relation. But these differences clearly are not merely 
spatial." 1 When we visualise space, we must think of it as coloured; when 

1 "Appearance and Reality", p. 17. 



we try to feel space we cannot separate it from tactuo-muscular sensations. 
Some psychologists even go to the length of asserting that extension is 
nothing but a growth or construction from wholly non-extended secondary 
qualities, though that is perhaps going too far in the opposite direction. In 
regard to Kant's third argument, it has been maintained that infinite space 
and infinite r'me are neither wholes composed of finite spaces and finite 
times, not empirical concepts generalised from them, but logical constructions 
built out of the latter. In regard to Kant's fourth argument, it is held that 
the apodictic certainty which appears to characterise the truths of geometry 
and arithmetic is due to the fact that the absolute simplicity of mathematical 
phenomena admits of the undiluted application of the deductive method. 
The truths of geometry and arithmetic are universal and necessary only 
because they are analytical deductions from certain fundamental assump- 
tions. But the discovery of different kinds of non-Euclidean geometry has 
today clearly brought into relief the conventional character of the funda- 
mental premises of even mathematical sciences. Such premises are not 
really axioms, but postulates: they are pragmatically useful, and relative 
to the standpoints and purposes of special sciences. 


Before taking up a review of the objectivist theories of space and time, 
let us see what further developments Kant's doctrine of the subjectivity 
of space and time did undergo. Gentile agrees with Kant that space and 
time are a priori forms of perception, but such forms of perception are to 
be understood in Gentile's opinion, not as static moulds, but as active 
functions of the mind. Gentile lays indeed the greatest emphasis upon 
their character as functions or spiritual acts. In his view, there can be no 
multiplicity apart from the multiplying activity of the mind. "It is the 
mind's spatialising activity", says Gentile, "which generates multiplicity. 
It s does not presuppose it. Multiplication is the concrete reality which 
gives place to multiplicity. It is only abstractly that multiplicity can be 
thought of as something which subsists, withdrawn from the movement 
which belongs to, and is, the presupposition of thought." 1 Space and 
time which appear as forms of multiplicity are in their essence modes of 
multiplication which is a mental act. From this it follows that the reality 
of space is spatialisation, and the reality of time is temporalization. Now, 
if space and time be modes of multiplication, there can be no manifold of 

1 "The Theory of Mind as Pure Act", p. 124. 

4 6 


intuition, as Kant supposes, antecedent to the spatialising and temporali- 
zing activity of the mind. Absolute multiplicity is the character of the 
positive in so far as it is posited, and the multiple posnive is posited by 
the multiplying act of the mind. 

If we reflect upon the nature of space, we find that its essence lies in 
reciprocal exclusion of all the terms of actual or possible experience. Exactly 
the same is also true of the essential nature of time. So Gentile holds that 
time may be described as "the spatialization of the unity of space". 1 It 
is the multiplication of a point of space or of the totality of space in another 
dimension. Kant insists on the unifying and order-imposing function of 
space and time, because he presupposes the manifold of intuition as an 
antecedent datum. But Gentile contends that they are not so much in the 
nature of order and synthesis as in the nature of differentiation and 
multiplication. While the multiple points of space are characterised 
by co-existence, the multiple instants of time are characterised by 
compresence. Co-existence is convergence of all the points of space in 
a point which is outside them all, and which is, in consequence, the 
negation of their multiplicity. It is this transcendental point (i.e., the 
transcendental ego) which is the intelligibility of space. Similarly, com- 
presence is the convergence of all the moments of time, past, present, and 
future, in a present which is not the present situated between a past and a 
future, but is rather the negation of all multiplicity and successiveness. 
It is the transcendental or eternal present, on which all the rays of time 
converge and from which all irradiate, that is the intelligibility of time. 
Thus space and time are intelligible only as modes of activity of a non- 
spatial and non-temporal principle of consciousness. 

Gentile utters no doubt a profound truth when he says that space and 
time are unintelligible except as modes of activity of a transcendental 
principle of consciousness. But he seenis to us definitely mistaken in 
identifying that principle of consciousness with the mental act. The mind 
as we know it is a power of ignorance groping towards knowledge, and is 
not the ultimate creative principle. Space and time conceived as principles 
of division or reciprocal exclusion are indeed correlative to the mind, but 
the same is not true when they are viewed in their essential character. 
Space-time is in its deepest essence an extensive continuum, a self-extension 
of the dynamic spirit, an objective medium for the unfoldment of the 
infinite possibilities inherent in it. It is a grievous mistake to assume, as 
Gentile does assume, that all multiplicity must necessarily be reciprocally 

1 "The Theory of Mind as Pure Act", p. 118. 



exclusive. Mystics testify to the reality of interpenetrating multiplicity in 
some spiritual extension; different souls are in their view closely bound 
together by a bond of mutuality rooted in essential identity. Bradley and 
Bergson affirm the existence of undifferentiated diversity; the former posits 
it in immediate experience, and the latter glimpses it in the creative flow 
of time. Such interpenetrating diversities are surely objectively real apart 
from mental activity. Space-time, spiritual self-extension that it is in its 
essential character, is the medium of such interpenetrating multiplicity 


The popular attitude in regard to space and time is embodied in what is 
known as the receptacle theory. Space is popularly imagined as a 
vast endless receptacle in which material objects exist; time is imagined as a 
vast beginningless and endless receptacle in which events occur. The 
implications of the receptacle theory are followed out to their logical extreme 
by the great physicist Newton who emphasises the absoluteness of space and 
time as receptacles. According to Newton's absolute theory, portions of 
space and time are as actual as anything else, and they are 'occupied' by 
other actualities such as particles of matter. The order and interrelations of 
the moments of time as well as the order and interrelations of the points of 
space are eternally fixed. Absolute time, of itself, and from its absolute 
nature, flows equably without regard to anything external. It is to be sharply 
distinguished from the relative, apparent and common time which is some 
sensible and external measure of duration by means of motion such as an 
hour, a day, a month, a year. Similarly, absolute space, in its own nature and 
without regard to anything external, remains always similar and immovable. 
It is to be sharply distinguished from the relative and apparent space which 
is some movable dimension or measure of the absolute space, and which our 
senses can determine with reference to material objects. It follows from the 
absolute theory as sketched above that both space and time may be empty, 
i.e., they may exist as eviscerated of all objects and happenings. 


It was Descartes who first impugned the receptacle theory of space and 
time. He repudiated the view that space and time are receptacles or sub- 
stantial media such as can exist in themselves. He reduced space to an attri- 
bute of matter. Space is in his view extension, and that which is extended 
is matter, which means that space is an essential attribute of matter. By 


reason of analogous considerations, it may be held that the essence of time 
is duration, and that duration is a character of events that endure. Since in 
Descarte's opinion space is an essential attribute of matter, it follows that 
there can be no empty space, and no non-extended material particle or indi- 
visible atom. Spinoza supports Descartes in his view that space is an attribute. 
But Spinoza maintains that space is an attribute, not of matter, but of one 
infinite substance which people call God. Substantiality, the essence of which 
lies in independence of being, can strictly speaking belong to nothing short 
of the one infinite and all-comprehensive creative principle. Matter is not 
therefore an independent substance of which space is an essential attribute, 
it is rather a modification of space. Material objects are modes of infinite 
extension, or of God in so far as He is extended. 


While Spinoza holds that all material objects are modes of space or exten- 
sion, Bergson contends that all the objects of our experience are deposits of 
the movement of time. For Spinoza, space is something basic, it is some sort 
of stuff, a view from which, as we shall see later on, Alexander takes his 
clue, though space conceived as a stuff is undoubtedly in his opinion an 
attribute of one infinite substance. For Bergson it is time which is funda- 
mental, and all phenomena are precipitated within the flux of time. Time is 
not only objectively and independently real, it is the one ultimately real 
creative principle. And this time, the essence of which is duration and free 
creation, is to be conceived as absolutely free from spatiality. Bergson agrees 
with Gentile that reciprocal exclusion of the elements of the manifold is of 
the essence of space. Space which is thus envisaged as a principle of reci- 
procal exclusion is a shadow of the intellect; it is said to be correlative to our 
thought which is weighted with geometry. Bergson disagrees with Gentile 
with regard to the nature of multiplicity. While, according to Gentile,, all 
objective multiplicity is necessarily mutually exclusive and spatial, according 
to Bergson, there may be non-spatial multiplicity. Time is, in Bergson's 
view, an interfused and interpenetrating multiplicity involved in one creative 
urge; it is an indivisible creative act or movement. It is our intellectual 
habit of employing spatial metaphors that prevents an undistorted vision of 
the nature of time. That same habit is responsible for our conception of 
physical space-time or of equable and homogeneous mathematical time. 
The intellect, by virtue of its cinematographic mechanism, finds it practically 
necessary or useful to take static snapshot views of the continuous mobility 
of time. These immobile snapshots are then placed in juxtaposition in space, 



It is thus the pragmatic functioning of the intellect which gives rise to the 
notions of mathematical time and physical space. But it should be evident to 
all that mathematical time and physical space must be as real or as unreal as 
the intellectual snapshots of which they function as the objective locus. 

By stressing the importance of time Bergson brings to light the reality 
of absolutely free creation, and by disparaging the concept of static space 
he affirms the reality of interpenetrating plurality. And both these unfet- 
tered creativity and non-exclusive plurality are undoubtedly very 
deep features of reality. But that surely gives no warrant for enthroning time 
as the Ultimate of philosophy, as Bergsoa does. To take time as the supreme 
creative principle is to embrace the miracle of absolute novelties emerging 
from absolute non-being. The presence of genuine change and free creation 
in the world can very well be explained as a real self-manifestation in the 
temporal order of an unmanifcst Eternal endowed with a free will. Similarly, 
the existence of non-exclusive menifoldness is proof positive of some kind of 
spiritual extension corresponding to the phenomenal space of division. On 
such a view, neither space nor time would be a mere phenomenon having 
no objective counterpart in ultimate reality. Both of them would rather be 
phenomena bene fundata, in so far as they would be expressions, at our human 
level, of the self-extension and objective self-unfoldment of the fundamental 
spiritual reality. 


Russell maintains that time, far from being the supreme creative principle, 
is in some sense an unimportant and superficial characteristic of the real. 
He acknowledges no doubt the reality of time, the reality of the past and the 
future as also of the present, but still a certain emancipation from slavery to 
time is, in his opinion, essential to philosophic thought. "Both in thought 
and in feeling", says Russell, "to realise the unimportance of time is the 
g&te of wisodm". 1 Russell is a chief exponent of the relational theory of 
space and time. There is, in his judgement, no reason to postulate such 
mysterious metaphysical entities as "points" and "instants" apart from 
sense-data. There are spatial relations such as "above", "below", "near", 
"distant," etc. and temporal relations such as "simultaneous", "earlier and 
later", etc. obtaining amongst various sciisc-data. These spatio-temporal 
relations are perceived along with sense-data, and can by no means be 
regarded as features contributed by our mental subjective apparatus. They 

1 "Our Knowledge of the External World", p. 166-7. 



are as much immediately given to us as sense-data are. Points and instants 
which are ultimate constituents in the absolute theory of space-time are 
but logical functions constructed of our sense-data and other structurally 
analogous particulars. A c 'point " for example has been defined as a set of 
spatial objects or "volumes which would naturally be said to contain the 
point"; and an instant has been defined as "a group of events simultaneous 
with each other and not all simultaneous with any event outside the group". 1 
The space and time of physics i.e., the one all-embracing space and the 
one all-embracing time, are also no better than, logical constructions. They 
are logical functions of private spaces and private times. In the very begin- 
ning, we have the space of sight, the space of touch, and the spaces of other 
senses. These are without difficulty correlated into one private space such 
as embraces all sense-data, and each person, so far as his sense-data are 
concerned, lives in a private world characterised by his own private space. 
The place at which a sense-datum is is a place in private space. This place 
is therefore different from any place in the private space of another perci- 
pient. Now, the multiplicity of private spaces directly experienced by 
different persons are correlated into one all-embracing space by means of 
the correlated "sensibilia" which are normally regarded as the appearances, 
in different perspectives, of one and the same thing. This one space is 
called by Russell "perspective-space", in which one whole private world 
counts as a point, or at least as a spatial unit. Each private world may be 
regarded as the appearance which the universe presents from a certain 
point of view. Since perspective-space is a three-dimensional series of 
perspectives each of which is itself three-dimensional, it is natural that 
perspective-space should be a space of six dimensions. But we notice 
correlations between the perspective space and the various private spaces 
contained within the various perspectives severally. It is on the basis of 
such correlations that perspective space is constructed by physics as one 
three-dimensional whole, Russell says that 'it is because of the unconscious 
performance of this correlation that the distinction between perspective 
space and the percipient's private space has been blurred, with disastrous 
results for the philosophy of physics'. 2 Similarly, the one all-embracing 
time is, in his view, a construction from private times. Between two pers- 
pectives which both belong to one person's experience there will be a direct 
time-relation of before and after. This gives us the time that belongs to 
a private biography, which is a series of events earlier or later than, or 

Knowledge of the External World", p. 155. 
2 "Mysticism and Logic", p. 162. 



simultaneous with, a given sensible. It is by correlating the times in different 
biographies by means of correlated events that one all-embracing time is 
constructed. Relativity physics has shown that time functions as an essential 
factor in the construction of one space, and also that space functions as an 
essential factor in the construction of one time. 


Like Russell, Whitehead also subscribes to the relational theory of space 
and time. According to Whitehead, the fundamental fact is the passing 
of nature, its development, its creative advance. "Actual entities", "actual 
occasions", or "events", which are involved in the creative advance of 
Nature, are also extensive one in relation to another. Time and space ori- 
ginate as abstractions from these two basic facts, namely, the passage of 
events and the extension of events over each other. Space, however, differen- 
tiates itself from time, in Whitehead's opinion, at a somewhat developed 
stage of the abstractive process. Space and time are not, of course, abstrac- 
tions in the sense that they do not express real facts for us. When White- 
head calls them abstractions, he means to assert that there are no spatial 
facts or temporal facts or even spatio-temporal facts apart from physical 
nature. Space and time are, in his opinion, merely ways of expressing 
cettain truths about the relations between events. Moreover, what we 
mean by space or time under one set of circumstances is not what we mean 
by space or time under another set of circumstances. 1 The fundamental 
and more general scheme of relations of which space and time are speciali- 
sations is what Whitehead calls "the extensive continuum". This extensive 
continuum is not a fact prior to the world; it is the first determination of 
order that is, of real potentiality arising out of the genral character of 
the world. 2 This continuum is itself the mere potentiality for division 
or atomizatton, because, according to Whitehead, while continuity is a 
feature of potentiality, actuality is incurably atomic. It is therefore actual 
entities which atomize or divide the extensive continuum. In respect to 
space, this atomization means that every actual entity in the temporal world 
is to be credited with a spatial volume for its perspective standpoint. In 
respect to time, this atomization takes the special form of "the epochal 
theory of time'*. Time is, in Whitehead's view, atomic, i.e. it is sheer succes- 
sion of epochal durations. The "duration" is the observational present 

1 "Concept of Nature", p. 162. 
1 "Process and Reality/' p. 92. 



i.e. the whole of nature apprehended in one immediate observation. Nature 
as extended is simultaneous but not instantaneous; it includes passage of 
events, it embraces antecedents and consequents. The divisibility and 
extensiveness falls within the given duration. "The epochal duration is 
not realised via its successive divisible parts, but is given with its parts". 
Time viewed as succession of epochal durations is not to be conceived as 
another form of extensiveness. Such time has been separated from 'exten- 
sion 9 and from the divisibility which arises from the character of spatio- 
temporal of extension. 1 The essence of epochal time is realisation. Every 
epochal whole is the realisation of some pattern in events. The temporal 
process of realisation is not necessarily one single series of linear succession, 
but can be analysed into a group of linear serial processes. Each of these 
linear series is a space-time system. 2 


Professor Alexander, who is in dead earnest with the reality of space and 
time, repudiates the relational theory as expounded by Russell and White- 
head. Space and time are v/ithout doubt relative to each other, but still, 
in his opinion, they can hardly be treated as relational schemes abstracted 
from a concrete stuff of sense-data or actual occasions of experience. Nor 
is space-time a form of matter, as Einstein suggests. Alexander is emphatic 
in his assertion that space-time is the fundamental stuff of all things; it 
is, in his picturesque pharaseology, "the matrix of all existence and the 
nurse of all becoming." Space-Time is the fundamental stuff, not of course 
in the traditional sense of substance, but in so far as it is the world in its 
simplest form of expression; it is the primordial form of existence within 
which all empirical things are differentiated as finite complexes of motion. 
An empirical thing, say an orange or even a patch of colour, not only occu- 
pies a definite portion of space-time, but is itself extended and enduring. 
Space-time may be said to penetrate into its very essence and being. So, 
the question is forced into our mind. What would be the relation between 
the spatio-temporal essence of a thing and the portion of space-time which 
it externally occupies? A very embarrassing question this! Alexander 
holds that the relation between space-time and empirical existents is not, 
to be sure, an external one. Taking his clue from Spinoza, he maintains 
that all material objects are modes of space or extension, or, to be more 

1 "Science and the Modern World", Chap. VII. 

2 ibid., p. 156. 



accurate and in keeping with modern ways of thinking, they are spatio-tem- 
poral configurations differentiated by some empirical emergent quality. 
Material objects are believed in the last analysis to be complexes of motion 
deposited within one all-comprehensive system of motion. But the authority 
of Spinoza can, it seems to us, hardly be quoted in support of Alexander's 
view in the matter. Material things are believed by Spinoza to be modes 
not of space or extension as such not of extension conceived as an inde- 
pendent stuff but of extension qua an attribute of God. In other words, 
material objects are believed to be modes of one infinite substance, God, 
in so far as He is extended. God qua extended is one infinite and universal 
matter, and finite material things are in Spinoza's view modifications of 
that material stuff. Indeed the more one reflects upon, the essential nature 
of space and time, the more is one sure to be convinced that space-time 
can be conceived neither as an empty medium nor as an independent stuff. 
Space and time essentially presuppose some concrete reality, as Russell 
and Whitehead contend. Space or extension presupposes a 'what' that is 
extended, and time or duration presupposes a 'what' that endures. They 
are in their deepest essence modes of self-extension of ultimate reality. 
Alexander is right when he says that the world is in its simplest expression 
space-time, but he turns a blind eye to the supreme truth that the world 
in its simplest expression means ultimate reality in its earliest self-manifesta- 
tion. Space and time may appear as the fundamental stuff in relation to 
the infinite diversity of empirical objects, but in their inmost essense they 
are modes of self-extension of the supreme reality. 

With regard to the relation between space and time Alexander clanns to 
go much deeper than the doctrine of relativity. He maintains that the rela- 
tion in question i? much more intimate than is supposed in relativity physics. 
Einstein, Minkowski and others hold that time is a fourth additional dimen- 
sion of space. In other words, every point has four co-ordinates, the time 
co-ordinate being the fourth. Time as an additional dimension is treated 
as a further order in which three-dimensional spaces are arranged. But 
Alexander says that though the above view may be a useful means of mathe- 
matical manipulation, or a legitimate way of mathematical representation 
of the nature of space and time, the relation between them, as empirically 
revealed to our inspection, is much closer and much more intimate still. 
He points out that time does with its one-dimensional order cover and 
embrace the three dimensions of space, and is not additional to them. "It 
is not a fourth dimension in the universe, but repeats the other three". 1 

1 "Space, Time and Deity", Vol. I, p. 59. 



Metaphorically speaking. Time is the soul of Space x and Space is the body 
of Time. Space, even in order to be space, must be temporal. Similarly, 
time, even in order to be time, must be spatial. But how? Let us briefly 
consider how Alexander shows space and time to be vital one to the very 
existence of the other. 

Time as experienced by us is succession in duration. It is a one-dimen- 
sional continuous series of successive instants or durations. Now it is space 
which supplies the element of continuity to time. Apart from space, time 
would have been reduced to a series of perishing moments. Not only that. 
In the absence of such a bond of connection as is supplied by space, time 
would shrink to a bare now, a now which was perpetually being renewed, 
a now, which had neither an earlier nor a later moment. It is the continuum 
of space which makes the moments of time into a continuous series. Simi- 
larly, looking at space it is found thai space as experienced by us is a conti- 
nuous whole of distinguishable positions. Now, H is time which supplies 
space with its element of differentiation. It is by a temporal process of 
movement that one position is distinguished from another position in space. 
So space is said to be full of time, and different points are said to exist 
in different instants, just as different instants occur at different points. 
Apart from time, space would sink into a blank continuum. As Alexander 
puts it, "without space there would be no connection in Time. Without 
Time there would be no points to connect." 1 But even this is not quite 
sufficient to convey a full idea of the kind of intimacy that characterises 
the relation between Space and Time. Space and Time are not only vital 
each to the existence of the other. The empirical characteristics of time 
exactly correspond to the dimensions of space, and the dimensions of space 
exactly correspond to the empirical characteristics of time. There are three 
empirical characteristics of time such as successiveness, irreversibility, and 
uniform direction. In so far as time is irreversible in direction, the moments 
of time form an asymmetrical series, which means that an instant which is 
before another cannot be after it. In so far as time is uniform in direction, 
the moments of time form a transitive series, which means that if an instant 
A is before an instant B and B before an instant C, then A is before C. 
Alexander takes great pains to show that the characteristics of time as a 
transitive asymmetrical series of succession owe themselves to the fact that 
space has three dimensions, and conversely that space has three dimensions 
because time is succesive, irreversible, and uniform in direction. Consi- 
dered apart from time, the three dimensions of space are independent of 

1 "Space, Time and Deity", Vol. I, p. 44. 



one another. "To say that space is a three-dimensional form of externality 
is the same thing as to say there are three independent one-dimensional 
forms of externality." 1 Space is a unity of three dimensions because of the 
three empirical features of time. 

It must be admitted that Alexander has brought to light some very impor- 
tant truths about the relationship between space and time. But howsoever 
vital to each other they might be, they can by no means be posited as the 
concrete and ultimate stuff of existence. Space and time may be inseparable 
and interlocked aspects of one infinite and continuous whole, but with all 
that they are in the last analysis no better than abstractions from a more 
concrete reality. As we have already remarked, even though space-time may 
be the world in its simplest expression, yet viewed from the ultimate stand- 
point, it is the earliest self-manifestation of a much deeper reality. Even 
though it may appear to be the basic stuff when viewed from the empirical 
standpoint, it is a medium for self-manifestation of some infinitely rich and 
concrete reality when viewed from the transcendental standpoint. Space- 
time is in its essence an extensive continuum. But extension is inconceiv- 
able without some reality that is extended. Of what then is space-time an 
extension? If ultimate reality is, as integral spiritual experience and philo- 
sophic speculation combine to testify, one ineffable spirit, endowed with a 
truth-consciousness and an absolutely free will, then space-time must be 
the self-extension of that Spirit for the unfoldment of the infinite possibi- 
lities inherent therein. 


To a balanced judgement, the view that space and time are objective 
entities independent of consciousness is likely to appear an opposite extreme 
to the view that they are merely subjective modes of apprehension. The 
conflict between the subjectivist and objectivist theories regarding space 
and time leads by an immanent dialectic to the emergence of a synthetic 
standpoint which seeks to reconcile the two extreme positions, and maintains 
that space and time are at once subjective and objective. Hegel agrees with 
Kant that space and time are a priori forms of sensous intuition, but he 
goes a step further and holds that they are also elements in the framework 
of external nature. This is because the finite percipients are in essence repro- 
ductions of the same absolute Spirit of which external Nature is an objective 
self-manifestation. The same Absolute manifests itself in and through 

, Time and Deity ", Vol. I, p. 51. 



finite spirits, and also externalises or objectifies itself in and through space 
and time. It is the unity of Mind and Nature in the Absolute which guarantees 
the synthetic character of space and time as at once a priori forms of intui- 
tion and primordial features of the realm of externality. Space and time are 
features of the realm of externality in so far as they are the basic forms of 
self-externalisation of the Absolute. Now, implicit in the assertion that 
space and time are objective as well as subjective is the implication that 
Reality is at once a Unity and a co-existent Plurality, at once an eternally 
self-reaHsed Fact and an eternally self-realising Act or Process. To admit 
sincerely the objective reality of space and time is tantamount to the admis- 
sion of an element of manifoldness and also an element of dynamic will or 
creative urge in the heart of ultimate reality. 

It is, however, extremely difficult to reconcile the two terms of the anti- 
thesis. How can that which is a Unity can at the same time be a co-existent 
Plurality? Then again, how can an eternally self-accomplished Fact be at 
the same time a self-realising Process? Space and time, taken even in their 
deepest spiritual signification^ seem to contradict the very essence of the 
Absolute Spirit. That is why we find that those who take space seriously 
have a tendency towards materialism and pluralism and those who take time 
seriously show a marked tendency towards evolutionism. Those on the 
contrary who profess loyalty to the Absolute Spirit generally turn out advo- 
cates of a "block-universe", or of a blank featureless principle of unity. 
Hegel recognises the necessity of reconciling plurality with unity, and process 
with reality, but he does not quite succeed in unravelling the mystery of 
their reconcilation. Among the followers of Hegel those who take seriously 
one term of the antithesis are unconsciously led to compromise the 
reality and minimise the importance of the other term. Bradley, for example, 
takes seriously the aspects of unity and eternity of the supreme Reality, and 
we find, in consequence, that he proceeds to exhibit space and time as incom- 
prehensible appearances. True, when Bradley calls space and time appear- 
ances, he does not mean to relegate them to the sphere of the purely subjec- 
tive. Space and time are, in hi sview, appearances in the sense that they are 
not ultimately real, and in the sense that they are in the nature of abstractions 
from the concrete fullness of experience. Bradley's reason for this view is 
that they are found to be shot through and through with logical contradic- 
tions when they are submitted to philosophical scrutiny. They are discrete 
and yet continuous. They evidently come to us as relations between some 
units or ultimate constituents. Now, if these units be non-spatial or non- 
temporal, relational schemes involving such units cannot be space and time. 
If, on the contrary, these units be spatial and temporal, then they must 



dissolve into relations between smaller terms, which again would dissolve 
into further relations, and so on ad infinitum. This shows that space and 
time are not ultimately real But still they are real in so far as they fall within 
the Absolute^ and function as elements in the permanent structure of reality. 
In taking their place in the Absolute in conjunction with other factors of 
experience, they are, to be sure, substantially modified and transformed 
beyond recognition. They are somehow preserved in reality, but precisely 
how and in what shape they are preserved is more than Bradley can tell us. 
It is thus evident that what space and time are in their intrinsic essence 
Bradley cannot tell. Now, can he show any organic relation of space and 
time to the Absolute? Space and time as we know them are, in his view, 
unreal abstractions or self-contradictory appearances, incomprehensible as 
to how they appear,and incomprehensible also as to how they disappear into 
Reality. But such a view is, to say the least, anything but satisfactory. It 
provides no indication as to the sort of thing that constitutes the real essence 
of space and time. Unless we get an idea of the objective counterpart in reality 
of the appearances of space and time, and also an idea as to their raison 
d'etre in the world of manifestation, we can hardly feel inclined to accept 
them as real appearances i.e., as both subjective and objective. 

In McTaggart's philosophy we find that a serious attempt is made to 
demonstrate the synthetic character of space and time as both subjective and 
objective. He calls them phenomena bene fundata in as much as they are not 
mere phenomena in Kant's sense of the term, but are such phenomena as 
correspond to some indisputable features of ultimate reality. Space is cha- 
racterised by co-existence of a plurality of reciprocally exclusive parts and 
by infinite divisibility of these parts. Now, the features of co-existence, 
reciprocal exclusion, and infinite divisibility are ultimately real, because 
according to McTaggart reality consists of an impersonal unity of a plurality 
self-subsistent spiritual substances or selves, which are mutually exclusive 
in respect of their existence. The nature of each of these self-subsistent 
selves is infinitely divisible, the terms in the process of such division being 
perceptions of other selves and their perceptions. What is erroneous or 
illusory about space is its appearance as an attribute of matter or as locus 
of the existence of matter. McTaggart advances an array of close-knit 
arguments to demonstrate the unreality of matter. l The central point in 
his reasoning is that in the case of an unconscious substance like matter 
infinite divisibility involves self-contradiction in so far as every material 
object is composed of parts, and yet there are no parts of which it is composed, 

lcc The Nature of Existence", Vol. II, Chap. XXXIV. 

5 8 


because every part is composed of further parts. The same is not however 
true of the conscious self, because though such a self contains perceptions 
within perceptions ad infintium, yet such a series of perceptions are all deter- 
mined by the nature of different selves which are related to each other in 
different ways. 

Like space, time also is a phenomenon bene fundatnm. The phenomenon 
of time is a transitive asymmetrical series of successive moments. According 
to McTaggart, the character of time as a transitive asymmetrical series must 
be admitted to be ultimately real. Corresponding to the distinctions of earlier 
and later, there exist in reality distinctions of being included and being - 
inclusive. Earlier perceptions are included in perceptions which appear to 
come later. Such an enclosure series of perceptions is also governed by tran- 
sitive and asymmetrical relations. But though time is objectively real in so far 
as its serial character is concerned., it is entirely subjective in respect of its 
successiveness. McTaggart adduces a unique set of considerations to demon- 
strate the illusory character of time as succession. x Succession is, he points 
out, entirey meaningless apart from change. When terms are arranged as 
earlier and later in serial form, they do not admit of any change whatsoever. 
If, for example, A is earlier than B, then it is eternally earlier than B, there 
being no room for any change in this relationship. Deprived of changeable- 
ness, distinctions of earlier and later lose their temporal significance. But 
the series of terms arranged as earlier and later is in fact what it is only because 
it presents another aspect or is indissolubly bound up with another series, 
the series of terms arranged as past, present and future. It is the properties 
of being past, present and future which are constantly changing. Every 
event is first future in relation to some present, it then becomes present, 
and finally it is relegated to the past, first to the immediate past, and gradually 
more and more to the remote past. Apart from the fact that the members 
of the scries 'past-present-future' presuppose their relation to something 
which is placed outside the whole series, almost every member possesses 
the properties of past, present and future which are quite incompatible 
determinations. It is this possession of self-contradictory properties which 
makes the time series unreal. It would be unavailing to say that an event is 
past, present and future not at the same time, but that it was future it is 
present, and it will be past. This means that the event was future at some 
past moment, it is present at some moment of present, and it will be past 
at some future moment. In other words, in order to escape contradiction 
an event must be said to be past, present and future only at moments specified 

1 "The Nature of Existence", Vol. II, p. 9-29. 



as future, present and past. But the moments future, present and past would 
again require, in order to avoid contradiction, other moments specified 
as past, present and future, and so on ad infinitum. Thus the contradiction 
is never avoided; it penetrates the very essence of the time series, and reveals 
it in its illusory character. 

We may observe here by way of criticism that while McTaggart goes 
too far in his vindiction of the objective reality of space, his theory of time 
amounts to its reduction to a mere illusion, all his assertions to the contrary 
nonwithstanding. He rejects space as an attribute or locus of matter, 
because, an uncompromising critic of materialism that he is, nothing material 
can find favour with him. But he accepts as ultimately real all such 
phenomenal characteristics of space as infinite divisiblity, co-existence of 
plurality and reciprocal exclusion of being. His conception of reality as a 
plurality of eternally self-subsistent selves is the outcome of this acceptance. 
With regard to time, however, he spares no pains to repudiate its very 
distinctive essence of successiveness. Succession is, in his view, a shadow 
of misperception. The reality behind it is an eternally fixed transitive 
asymmetrical series of perceptions related to each other as included and 
inclusive. McTaggart's theory of time thus exemplifies the notion of the 
'block-universe' in its most undiluted form. 

McTaggart's chief argument to prove the unreality of time is that the 
subjective distinctions of past, present and future are vital to the time 
series, and that the distinctions of earlier and later are meaningless apart 
from them. But it requires no extraordinary insight to see that events are 
capable of changing in a variety of ways, and that they may change in such 
a way as to make the distinctions of earlier and later objectively and inde- 
pendently valid. Professor Eddington suggests that the one-way charac- 
ter of time or its successiveness in an irreversible direction arises from the 
fact that the universe is, as the Second Law of Thermodynamics implies, 
increasingly running down. According to this Law, the random element 
or entropy is always increasing in the universe, and it can never decrease. 
It is the gradual increase of entropy or complexity of organisation which 
imparts to time its one-way character. As Eddington puts it, "So far as 
physics is concerned, time's arrow is a property of entropy alone." 1 Dis- 
tinctions of earlier and later can then very well be understood to have their 
objective basis in entropy which is the practical measure of the increasing 
random element in the universe. This is, however, so far as science can 
go by way of affirming the objective validity of the irreversible successive- 

1 "The Nature of the Physical World", p. 86. 



ness of time. But there are also philosophically more satisfactory means of 
vindicating this irreversible successiveness. Henri Bergson holds that it 
is free or unfettered creation which cosntitutes the essence of time. Genuine 
creation implies continual emergence of unique forms and fresh novelties. 
Distinctions of earlier and later presuppose such a process of creative 
advance. Dr. Broad has formulated his theory of time on closely similar lines. 
Says Broad, "The sumtotal of existence is always increasing, and it is this 
which gives the time-series a sense as well as an order. A moment t is 
later than a moment t 1 if the sumtotal of existence at t includes the sumtotal 
of existence at t 1 together with something more.' 51 There is thus little 
warrant for McTaggart's assertion that time is incomprehensible except 
with reference to the subjective distinctions of past, present and future. 
There is without doubt genuine change in the objective world apart from 
the succession of our perceptions; there is in other words objective succes- 
sion in addition to subjective succession. That which can reasonably be 
disputed is the precise nature of the objectively real change. Consistently 
with his view of the nature of ultimate reality, Sri Aurobiudo holds that 
objective change is in the nature of progressive self-manifestation of the 
Spirit or its gradual unfoldment in self-created media. Bergson' s theory 
of absolutely novel creation, and Broad's theory of continual increase of 
the sumtotal of existence, are true only as characteristics of the world of 
manifestation, and not of ultimate reality. The fundamental import of 
objective change is the progressive enrichment of the world of manifestation. 
That there is objectively real change nobody can seriously dispute wihtout 
running into self-contradictions or flying in the face of obvious facts. And 
it is objectively real change which functions as the basis of our notion of 
time. Time conceived as a transitive asymmetrical series of successive moments 
(i.e., an irreversible order of successive instants) is an abstraction from the 
concrete change or creative advance of Nature. McTaggart embarks upon 
an examination of the nature of time with this initial assumption that the 
moments of time, in order to be temporal, must be capable of changing in 
respect of their qualities or relations. He finds on examination that the 
moments of time can change only in respect of being past, present and 
future. But this is obviously beginning at the wrong end, and starting 
with unwarrantable assumptions. The conception of a time series of 
discrete moments with which McTaggart starts is undoubtedly a 
product of highgrade abstraction, extracted from the concrete flux of 

1 "Scientific Thought", p. 66. 




It should be abundantly clear from the foregoing discussion that according 
to the Integral Idealism of Sri Aurobindo the fundamental reality of space- 
time is spiritual self-extension of ultimate reality. Reality is, in its original 
status and intrinsic nature, the spaceless and timeless Spirit. Space and time 
are the same Reality self-extended to contain the deployment of what is 
within it. 1 Now, the self-extension of the infinite and eternal Spirit must 
be infinite and eternal too. So it may be said that the fundamental truth of 
space is the infinity of the Infinite, whereas the fundamental truth of time 
is the eternity of the Eternal. 2 This doctrine of the spiritual essence of 
space-time would not in the least be affected by the diversity of interpre- 
tation that might be placed upon the spacific relationship between space 
and time. The spiritual theory of space and time may primarily be under- 
stood to mean that Space is Brahman as self-extended status, and Time is 
Brahman as self-extended movement. This implies that Space is a static 
extension *n which all things stand or move together in a fixed order, and 
Time is a mobile extension which is measured by movement and flux of 
events. But such a construction would be based upon our prima facie 
inaccurate impressions about space and time. The truth perhaps is that 
Space is Brahman as self-extended for the holding together of forms and 
objects, and Time is Brahman as self-extended for the deployment of the 
movement of self-power carrying forms and objects. Such a view would 
make Space and Time not two different kinds of self-extension, but two 
inseparable aspects of one and the same self-extension of the cosmic Eternal. 3 

Bradley h?s drawn the attention of the philosophic world to the existence 
of different spaces and different times. In addition to one all-embracing 
physical space, there are different dream-spaces, imaginary spaces, and 
the conceptual space that functions as the habitat of our different concepts. 
Similarly, in addition to one all-embracing physical time there are dream 
tijnes and the imaginary times that belong to our different stories. The 
commonsense method of understanding this multiplicity of different spaces 
and different times is to affirm the reality of physical space and physical 
time alone, and to relegate the rest of it to the realm of pure illusion. Prof. 
Alexander, a neo-realist that he is, cannot but accord reality to mental 
spaces and mental times, but he takes considerable pains to show that the 

lcc The Life Divine", Vol. II (i), p. 99. 
ibid., p. 103. 
ibid., p. 100. 



latter have spatio-temporal connection with, and consequently fall within, 
the one all-emcompassing physical Space-Time. Mr. Bradley maintains 
that mental spaces do no doubt possess a type of reality of their own, but 
still they cannot be said to have any spatial connection with the physical 
space which is as much a product of ideal construction as they themselves 
are. In his judgment, the different kinds of space, physical and mental, 
can be united in the Absolute only in some sort of non-spatial unity. Simi- 
larly, mental times such as belong to dreams and stories cannot be said to 
have any temporal connection with the physical time which is as much an 
ideal construction as the former. So, the different kinds of time, physical 
and mental, can be united in the Absolute only in some sort of non-temporal 
unity. Integral Idealism holds that different spaces and different times 
which are relative to different states of consciousness do surely enjoy each 
a spacific type of reality of its own. But, according to Integral Idealism, the 
fundamental truth and essential basis of the wide diversity of spaces and 
times is neither one physical space-time as Alexander holds, nor one mys- 
terious all-engulfing Whole that swallows them up beyond recognition as 
Bradley suggests, but the self-extension of the creative Spirit. All times 
and spaces are, as Sri Auiobindo puts it, "renderings of a fundamental 
spiritual reality of Time-Space." 1 

Those who have any acquaintance with direct spiritual experience bear 
witness to what they call "chidakasa" which means the space or limitless 
expanse of consciousness. It is a fact of direct experience that when one 
draws back from the physical space, one becomes aware of a. subjective 
space-extension in which the mind lives and moves about. This immaterial 
extension is not less real than physical space, but rather belongs to a higher 
level of reality. It would also be wrong to suggest that mental space was 
quite unrelated to physical space. Thece is in fact a relation of constant 
interpenetration between the two. As Sri Aurobindo testifies 'out mind 
can move in its own space in such a way as to effectuate a movement also 
in space of Matter or act upon something distant in space of Matter!- But 
behind this mental extension, there is a stil! higher kind of extenson, a 
pure spiritual space, which contains within itself the secret essence of phy- 
sical space. A man can step back into this higher kind of extension by a 
mighty effort of concentration. From pure spiritual space which is revealed 
to the inward eye of the soul time seems to drop away, as there is no 
perception of any change or movement there. It is this timeless spiritual 

* "The Life Divine", Vol. II (i), p. ror. 
ibid., p. 102. 



extension which manifests itself in the shape of the subjective mind-field 
at the level of the pure mind, and in the shape of the objective field of 
senseperception at the level of the sense-mind. 

Similarly, by drawing back from the physical time by inward spiri- 
tual movement, it is possible to have an increasing insight into 
the essence of the temporal. Just as the ultimate truth about the 
nature of space is the infinity of the Infinite, so also the ultimate 
truth about the nature of time is the eternity of the Eternal. We, 
human beings, involved as we are in the movement of time, are tied 
down to the passing moment in respect of immediate experience. Moving 
along with the movement of time, we can lay hold only of very tiny 
temporal fragments that go to constitute our ever-shifting specious present. 
The past and the future alike are to us but ideal constructions. But though 
we cannot directly perceive the past and the future, we construct the time- 
process in our imagination as a beginningless and endless series, as an eternal 
movement, flow or stream. Now, critical reflection can never reconcile 
itself to such a beginningless and endless movement of time. The infinite 
time-process, which is for us an ideal construction, must also be capable of 
being directly experienced in order that it may be said to be concretely real. 
Royce suggests that just as a definite length of time, however small, the 
specious present that contains a rearward and forward-looking end, is 
immediately given to the finite span of human consciousness, similarly the 
whole time-process with its three periods of past, present and future, must 
be immediately present in a flash of intuition to the "Eternal Now" or the 
infinite span of consciousness of the Absolute. Royce maintains that it is 
utter folly to denounce the infinite time-process as a "bad infinite". Even 
when considered as a conceptual construction, the time-series, properly 
understood, is quite self-coherent and satisfactory to the intellect. Modern 
mathematics has amply demonstrated that the concept of the serial infinite 
is quite intelligible as a self-imaging or self-representative system (as a 
"kette"). It is present at a stroke to our thought by means of its defining con- 
cept. But in order that the time-process may gain concrete reality, it must 
also have a place, in Royce's opinion, in some all-inclusive immediate expe- 
rience. It must be present indeed as a "totum simul" to the infinite span of 
consciousness of the Divine. "The eternal insight", as Royce puts it, 
"observes the whole of time and all that happens therein, and is eternal only 
by virtue of the fact that it does know the whole of time". 1 But the infinite 
order of time is not only concretely real as an object of immediate con- 

l "The World and the Individual", Vol. II, p. 144. 

6 4 


sciousness of God, it is not simply a totum simul., it is also, as Pringle 
Pattison points out 1 , a singificant whole embraced in the Divine Conscious- 
ness which at the same time transcends it. It is significant as a teleological 
scheme, the successive moments of time being different stages in the pro- 
gressive realisation of the Divine Will or Purpose. It is to this fact of being 
sustained by the Divine Will that the infinite process of time owes its unity 
and continuity. 

If, however, we are to follow the indications of spiritual experience, we 
cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that there is also an aspect of conscious- 
ness, a poise of being of the Spirit, to which the category of time is simply 
inapplicable. The Spirit in its supracosmic transcendence is characterised 
by timeless eternity. In respect of its immediate status or self-absorbed 
essentiality, the Absolute is without any development of consciousness 
in movement or happening. But since supra-cosmic transcendence, cosmic 
universality, a^d intnv-cosmic individuality are, in the view of Integral 
Idealism, only different poises of being of the same Supreme Spirit, so time- 
lessness, totum simul, and time-movement, are but different statuses or posi- 
tions taken by consciousness with regard to the same Eternal Reality. While 
Bradley's conception of eternity as the transmuted essence of time is true 
of the Spirit in its self-absorption, Royce's view of eternity as a totum simul 
or as the whole-consciousness of an infinite succession is true of the Spirit 
in its cosmic universality or dynamic creativity, and the ordinary view of 
eternity as an endless march of time is true of the Spirit in its individual 
entanglement in the creative flux. It must not be supposed that the different 
presentations of the Eternal as described above are incapable of existing 
together, so that they are only successive phases either in our apprehension 
of reality or in the gradual self-alienation of reality itself. It must not, 
for example, be supposed that when the timeless experience of the Absolute 
is attained, the embracing consciousness of time as a totum simul or the 
simultaneous integrality of Time as well as the advancing consciousness of 
the time-movement must forthwith melt away like vanishing mist. It must 
not also be supposed that God cannot at the same time have an aspect of 
timeless experience and an aspect of inclusive consciousness of the entire 
time-process. Timelessness, eternal now, and endless succession are in fact 
the same Eternity in its different forms relative to the different poises of 
being of the Spirit. They form a simultaneous multiplicity of self-presenta- 
tions of the same Reality; they correspond to different powers of self-aware- 
ness of the Supreme, the power of status and non-manifestation, the power 

lc< The Idea of God", p. 355-57. 



of self-effectuating action, and the power of sportive self-entanglement in 
the flux of becoming. God in His unmanifest essentiality is eneffably non- 
temporal; God in His self-manifestting creativity is inclusive of the temporal; 
and God in His self-alienated embodiment moves long with the movement 
of the temporal. 



The Rapid Rite of a Seer-Priest 


A S we follow in the footsteps of the Master in our studies of the hymns 
"^ of the Rig Veda, we get more and more convinced not merely of the 
straightforwardness of the approach that leads us to discover the inner and 
true sense of the Riks, but of another fact. It is the conviction growing upon 
us that this is the only true way, that the inner meaning is the substance 
which is the treasure' of spiritual wisdom and Knowledge of the Gods and the 
Godhead. It is not that there is nothing else, any more or less than this, it 
may contain within it concealed other knowledge that pertains to the domain 
of many branches of Science. There may be and is room for other line or 
lines of approach affording fields of thought, for those interested in Astro- 
nomy, Geology, Biology or Ayurveda. But the one inner meaning that runs 
consistently through the whole body of the hymnal text is the main issue of 
the Veda and that is the spiritual and occult knowledge and Divine Wisdom 
which certainly justifies the hoary tradition of India among all religions and 
sects and saints that the Veda is Revelation and Divine Scripture. It may 
throw light on other objects of Knowledge, but they are side-issues, not the 
main spirit and substance which is knowledge of truths about the Godhead 
and the Gods who are Powers and Personalities of the Godhead and about 
their status, and manifestation in the Cosmos as well as in man. 

Apart from this sacred tradition which is based upon the secret and inner 
sense of the Veda, there runs a parallel tradition that the Veda is a book of 
Works, Karma Kanda, rituals and sacrifice, and this is true in the external 
and gross sense, so ably and with great industry and diligence worked out 
and brought forth in the great commentary of Sayana. Leaving aside the 

question of discrepancies and quite often the incongruous and poverty- 



stricken thought that run through this commentary on a large body of the 
hymns and after all this is a matter of detail Sayana's work is consistent 
in giving us the external and ritualistic meaning of the hymns. And this 
is a great asset for us, for those who attempt to get into the inner secret 
through the outer garb that is provided in this monumental work of extra- 
ordinary grossness and crudities often bordering on incoherences; it pro- 
vokes our thought and invites our attention to seek for the secret behind the 
apparent. But though Sayana gives us the outer and apparent meanings of 
Riks, though the Gods are treated as Nature-powers, though very often 
his interpretation with the occasional help of Yaska lends support to the 
Naturalistic interpretation of modern scholarship, he does not reject, as 
Sri Aurobindo points out, the spiritual authority of the Veda or 'deny that 
there is a higher truth concealed in the Riks.' Nor does he affirm that the 
Vedic hymns are sacrificial compositions of priests, even though his inter- 
pretation constitutes a colossal support for ritualism. 

But it may be asked: is it a baseless assumption on the part of scholars 
that the hymns are compositions of the priests for use in the sacrifices? Such 
a doubt naturally arises in the absence of a correct understanding of the posi- 
tion of the priest in the Vedic society, as well as the real character of the 
hymns used and chanted in the public sacrifices. For it is the seer, Rishi, 
who was the priest officiating at the ceremonies and the Riks were used for 
the rituals. The seers were certainly singers and their chants were sung 
at public sacrifices referring 'constantly to the customary ritual and seem 
to call for the outward objects of these ceremonies, wealth, prosperity., vic- 
tory over enemies. 5 While the Riks in their inner sense are profoundly spiri- 
tual and the exoteric sense was a mask which alone was perceptible to the 
outward mind, it was not and need not be merely a mask. Again as 
the Master points out, they were 'words of power, powerful not only for 
internal but external things. 5 The ancient mystics were concerned first 
and foremost with things of the Spirit, but they were also possessed of 
Knowledge of occult truths and 'believed that by inner means outer as well 
inner results could be produced, that thought and words coulct be so used 
as to bring about realisations of every kind, both the human and the divine" 
daivam manusham. 

But a question may arise. How can we say that the seer of profound 
spiritual knowledge was also the priest for public worship? Of course in 
the Puranic legends many Rishis are mentioned as priests, purohits> and some 
of them are Rig Vedic names of renown, Vasishtha for example. Is it safe 
to build and base such a theory on later stories? This difficulty vanishes, 
once we study the hymns closely, note the tradition in regard to their outer 



applications also and take the help of the Brahmanas in the context in spite 
of their obscure symbolism. When we scrutinise, we find not only that the 
Rishi officiated as the Purohit at the Yajna, but also that the Riks he used are 
deliberately ritualistic to outward appearance mentioning the implements, 
external objects, and other things used in the sacrifice, as symbols covering an 
inner secret known to the Rishi and the initiates. I propose to illustrate this 
point by citing the example of a well-known Seer who consented to officiate 
at a Soma sacrifice without the customary goat-immolation. This ritual is 
entitled Anjah-Sava which, Sayana explains, means a rapid direct straight- 
way offering of libation without the admixture of the sacrificial animal^ 
anjasd rijund mdrgena ishti-pashu sdnkaryam antarena. The seer-priest is the 
renowned Shunah-shepa and the hymn for the Anjah-sava is the fifth of the 
seven Hymns ascribed to him in the First Mandala of the Rik Samhita. It 
is 1.28, containing nine Riks in which external things like the pressing stones 
for the extraction of the Sonia juice, the platters to receive the juice, the 
pestle and the mortar, the wooden vessel and other outer things are so plainly 
mentioned that on the face of it one can conclude that it is a sacrifiicial 
composition. When we consider the ideas expressly stated, it is rather child- 
ish, devoid of any deep thought, or significance. But when we look deeper 
into it and ponder over the terms used and the application of the whole 
hymn in the ritual as explained in the Brahmanas and also take into account 
the interesting explanation given by the Brahmanas for certain terms used 
according to themselves as symbolism, we find ourselves no longer studying 
the babblings of primitive people deceiving themselves and deceived by an 
avaricious and cunning priestcraft, but enter into the mysteries of the pro- 
found Vedic Yoga of which the seer in question was a notable votary and 
indeed he embodies one of the types of spiritual victories recorded in the 
Rig Veda that crowned the toil and ascension of the Aryan soul. 

Sayana in his commentary on the 28th hymn of the First Mandala refers 
to Anjah-sava as the title of the rapid rite of Sorna libation seen by the Rishi 
Shunahshepa in response to the request of other sages and priests that the 
former must officiate on that day, the day of sacramental bath that is the 
close of the ceremony. Here mention is made of Aitareya Brahmana 33-5 
which narrates the story in brief. The point to be noted in this connection 
is this that Shunahshepa was unanimously chosen to officiate because he 
was recognised as one who was the recipient of the grace of the Gods, devata- 
anugraha-sampanna, whose favours helped him to get released from the 
bonds to which reference for the first time is made in 1.24. 

And these bonds are not fastenings with ropes on three parts of the body 
the head and the waist and the feet in spite of the later stories. There is 



nothing in the 24th hymn, in the text itself to support the extraordinarily 
gross meaning read into the hymn to the effect that he was sold to be immo- 
lated in a sacrifice. The legend started slowly with the Aitareya Brahmana 
in a moderate form, but assumed huge proportions in the Puranas. But a 
close reading of the hymn itself shows beyond a shadow of doubt that these 
fastenings refer to the upper, the lower and the middle regions; 'uttama, 
adhama, madhyama 9 are the words used in the Rik. And certainly they point 
to the parts of the being; the upper is the knowledge part represented by the 
mind and spirit, the lower the material basis, the physical, while the middle 
refers to the link between Matter and mind, the vital nexus the life-prin- 
ciple. The profound sense of the whole hymn reveals the spiritual signi- 
ficance of every line and word in the Riks of that whole hymn. It is not our 
purpose here to take up the question of Shunahshepa and explain the meaning 
of the hymn around which so much crust has collected. That has been done 
elsewhere. 1 It is sufficient to note here that such was the seer whom the 
priests honoured to officiate at the ceremony. 

The Rishi readily consented to conduct the rite and saw> 'dadarsha' the 
method of a rapid rite for the straightway offering of the Soma libation. 
And the 28th hymn of nine Riks is used for the ritual. We shall first give a 
close rendering of the Riks which are apparently meant for the rite and make 
mention of the materials connected with the ceremony and then show how 
these very things are used as symbols for the inner sacrifice and signify 
subtle and deep truths pertaining to the Vedic Yoga. And in unveiling the 
symbols we shall as a matter of course take into account ancient authorities 
who looked upon these materials as symbols, though not exactly in the way 
we do, but still were familiar with a general knowledge of symbolism. 

Of the nine Riks, in the first four Indra is invoked to come down and 
drink the Soma; the next four relate to the extraction of the Soma juice and 
the part of the pestle and mortar, while the last refers to the wooden vessel 
in which the Soma juice is poured and preserved and the cow-hide in which 
the dregs are kept. 

Here is the English rendering of the hymn, verse by verse. 

i. There where the broad-based Stone is high above to press (the Soma 
juice out), O Indra, drink with eagerness the pourings of the mortar. 2 

1 This has been discussed in my Sanskrit commentary on the hymn, Rig Veda 1-28, 
and in the article based upon it by M. P. Pandit, that appeared in the Pathamandir Annual 
No. 8, 1949. 



Note. Yatra 'where' means 'in the ritual', in this action; it can be applied 
to the outer rite as well as the inner Yaga. Sayana takes the preposition ava 
in the second half to mean avagatya, recognise. This is unwarranted even 
for the exoteric meaning. The sense of the Rik is this: Indra is above, he is 
called upon to come down, ava, to drink ava jalgulah the drippings of the 
Soma juice from the mortar. In the ritualistic interpretation, grava, stone 
is taken to be the pestle. Now there is a discrepancy. It is clearly the pres- 
sing stone and not pestle. The scholiast calls it pestle because there is the 
mortar, ulukhala in the second line. Pestle and mortar are of wood and used 
in the Vedic rites to separate the chaff from the grain, they are not used to 
extract the Soma juice. Grava is stone used to beat the Soma creeper, so 
that it becomes soft and pressed, yields the juice which is received in the 
platters. Here in the very first Rik of the hymn the seer significantly refers 
to the 'stone above' urdhva\ he does not say it is raised, though for the external 
rite it can be so interpreted. This stone which is above is Indra's weapon, 
the vajra. Indra is above, his weapon is above; by the blow dealt by the 
vajra even as Vritra, the darkened cloud of adverse forces and ignorance and 
inertia vanishes, so also the hard matter of body loses its hardness, becomes 
plastic, free from tamas, inertia and its brood of adverse conditions and forces 
that oppose the release of Rasa, the delight of all experiences to be offered 
to the Gods, the Cosmic powers of the Godhead. Here the mortar is the 
material body, and it must be noted that earth and every product of it such 
as the tree, and anything made of wood is symbolic of the physical body and 
even life and mind as products of the body are very often treated symbolically 
as of earth and earthern material; of this again later on. This then is the gist 
of the first Rik. Here this body symbolised by the mortar 'ulukhala' has 
yielded the Soma, the rasa, its sap, the essence and essential delight for the 
acceptance of Indra, the Divine mind, the God of the luminous mind, the 
higher consciousness in the pure mind of heaven, the ruler of this triple 
world of Matter, Life and Mind. The Rishi addresses Indra invoking his 
presence to come down and drink the Rasa whose extraction was possible 
because of the benign blows of the grava, the Vajra weapon of Indra himself. 
Note that this stone is the Vajra weapon, not the gross thunderbolt which is 
meaningless in the inner sacrifice, but the Vak, the Word wide-based in the 
Vast above, urdhwa-budhna prithu-budhna as can be gathered from repeated 
reference to it as such in many lines of the hymns of the Rig Veda, and so 
explained in the Brahmanas in their moods of symbolic interpretation of 
the Vedic rituals and Vedic mantras. This Vak, the Word or speech whose 
source is the Vast above is really that of the luminous mind of heaven, of 
the higher consciousness and when it functions, its vibrations rush forth 

7 1 


and blow off the din and dust of the lower triple body of mind, life and 
matter, it illumines the mind, energises the life-force, drives out the inertia 
from the physical body and softens it so that it releases the rasa of all the 
experiences it earned through the life and heart and mind. This, then, is 
the real character and function of the grava that it is the Word of power 
issuing forth from the higher consciousness which is the domain of Indra, 
pregnant with the light of knowledge, but dynamic in its vibrant movement 
that removes all kinds of coverings and effects with the blow it deals out 
to the being of the worshipper, yajamana, the release of the essence of all 
delight lying latent and hidden in the vessel, adhar, of the human being 
which is indicated by the symbol of the v/ooden mortar, ulukhala. 

2. There where the two platters (to hold the juice), like broad-hips, are 
laid, O Indra, drink with eagerness the effusions of the mortar. 1 

Now in the external rite of Soma extraction pressing stones are used to 
beat the creeper to squeeze and make it soft and release the sap. This extrac- 
tion is called abhishava. But the juice is received in two platters^ called 
'adhi-shavana phalaka'. They are two shallow dishes, one to receive and 
the other to cover. They are broad and likened to broad hips to denote that 
they are broad and always two, never one without the other. 

In the inner sacrifice, these two platters are symbols of Earth and Heaven 
according to Brahmanic symbology in which case they are the lower physical 
consciousness and the higher consciousness of the luminous mind. But 
we do not follow the Brahmanas in unveiling the symbols as they are very 
often at variance with the many alternatives they themselves suggest or with 
other Brahmanic interpretations with the result they become obscure to 
us. But they shed light on the truth that the stone, platters, mortar, wooden 
cup or pot, chamasa and kalasha are all symbolic and should not be taken 
in their literal sense as unthinking priestcraft would do. The two platters 
are the mind and life in the body which represent the principles of knowledge 
and "activity. These two are together engaged in receiving the rasa yielded 
by the mortar of the material body and are conjointly there to receive and 
preserve the juice, the substantial element in all experience for offering to 
the Gods. In fact it is the twin aspect of knowledge' and action, mind and 
life quite in accord and proper adjustment that makes it possible to receive 
and preserve the extracted rasa which is their common aim and true function. 

^^n" siP=i<=i 


This is in biief the inner meaning of the second verse. It must be noted here 
that the implements used in the ritual are all mentioned here one by one, 
at the same time used as symbols which are avowedly said to be 
symbols, as has been pointed out, and not our invention or the result of 
ingenious speculation. Now let us pass on to the third Rik. 

3. Where (in the rite) the woman learns (or practises) the egress and in- 
gress, O, Indra, drink with eagerness the effusions of the mortar. 1 

This is an interesting Rik. The woman goes out of and comes into the 
sacrificial hall. The woman is the sacrificer's wife. This is Sayana's expla- 
nation of the teims, Nan., apachyava and upachyava. The point to be noted 
here is that no Vedic rite could be performed by any one without a wife. 
The idea is that the woman, as the Shakti of man, shares the act and its 
fruit with him whose Shakti she is. I have given egress and ingress as the 
English equivalents of apachyava and upachyava, it is not quite accurate 
and may even mislead, but it has the advantage of leaning more towards the 
ritualistic interpretation which is best represented in Sayana's commentary. 
There are other commentators, for instance, Skandaswami, giving a very 
ludicrous and vulgar meaning which does not merit notice here. Some 
modern scholars think that it is rise and fall of the pestle that the woman, 
sacrificer's wife marks and learns. But there is no actual mention of pestle 
at all as has been shown already. In this verse also the words used are signi- 
ficant pointing definitely to the true and inner meaning. 

As the action of the Vedic Yoga proceeds, the rasa of the whole being of 
the Yogin the sacrificer, Yajamana, is pressed out and received in the two 
platters of life and mind in the body and this was stated in the second verse. 
In the third it is stated that the Shakti of the Purusha, the sacrificer con- 
stantly watches and observes and learns the Yogic process in which the 
higher Force comes down into the being upachyava and the force from the 
being goes up or out, apachyava making way for the entry of the higher force 
into the being. Nari is Nara-Shakti and Nara is either man or God in the Veda 
denoting one of strength. The power, the Conscious Power of the powerful 
Soul, nara, watches the yogic process of the force of getting in from above 
and rising up from below, and thus learns shikshate the secret of the yogic 
action which is fulfilled in pressing out the juice, the delight of all experiences 



of the being to be offered to the Higher Powers of the Godhead, the Gods. 
Thus an intimate knowledge of the secret of the upward and downward 
movement of the Yoga-force becomes a natural possession under the control 
of the conscious power of the strong soul that has the strength to give its 
all to the Gods and receive in return what comes from the Godhead. 

4. Where, they fasten the churning staff with a rope as with reins to 
control (a horse). O, Indra, drink with eagerness the effusions of the mortar. 1 

In the external rite of Soma extraction when the juice is pressed out, it 
is mixed with milk or curds oryava, corn. They are called the three infusions, 
gavdshira, dadhydshira and yavd-shira respectively. When the Soma juice 
is to be mixed with this infusion, it is churned; the churning stick is moved 
by a rope placed round the handle and round a post planted in the ground 
as a pivot. When the ends of the rope are drawn backwards and forwards, 
it gives the stick a rotatory motion and the component parts are separated. 
Thus they tie the churning stick with cords for churning and steadying 
the vessel, just as with reins one restrains a horse. 

In the inner sacrifice, from the play of the Yoga-force of knowledge and 
action through the concord of mind and life, the rasa, the flow of delight 
that is pressed out has to be retained in the body-vessel and not spilt; and 
for this purpose, the body must be made firm and strong and steady and 
this object is achieved by the spinal column, made steady charged with the 
vibrations of the higher consciousness brought by the favours and workings 
of the Higher Powers. Thus in the first four verses, the pressing out of 
Soma in the Yajamana's being and the instruments used in the process 
are mentioned, and the Rishi calls upon Indra to come down and accept 
the offering of Soma that has been extracted with so much skill and toil 
and devotion. 

The next four Riks are used in the act of straining the Soma juice received 
in the platters. 

5. O, Mortar, if in truth thou art set in every house, here, give forth 
thy resplendent sound, like the victor's drum. 2 


Here is a pronounced difficulty in the gross sense. Now, the mortar 
is addressed and called upon to give a loud sound like the drum of the 
conquerors. Mortar never makes noise without the rapid rise and fall of 
the pestle which is nowhere mentioned in the whole hymn though grava 
in the first verse is pressed to yield that meaning in the ritualistic interpre- 
tation as it has to be somehow managed. Now in the inner interpretation, 
the idea is quite clear. Mortar is of course the physical being. In every 
house, in every man, there is a mortar, there is a material body but every 
body does not shed the precious juice. But the Rishi says, you are splendid 
and have given out the essence of all the experiences for offering even though 
you are jada matter, thick with inertia and darkness. You have trained 
yourself to respond to the touches and influence of the higher Powers that 
are invoked by the Yajaniana and have yielded the rasa of your being. 
Therefore you can loudly proclaim your victory over the tamasic forces 
that oppose the release of the rasa. Hence like the drum of the conqueror 
you can proclaim; it is not every mortar, the material body of every one, 
that is so successful as you. 

6. O Lord of the Forest, the wind blows fast in front of thee, O Mortar, 
for Indra that he may drink, press forth the Soma juice. 1 

Vanaspati literally lord of the forest is used to indicate any tree or plant 
or part and product of the forest. Mortar being made of wood is addressed 
here Vanaspati. The mortar is called upon to press out the juice, and the 
wind blows fiercely vivdtil How does the wind blowing fast or fiercely help 
the mortar to yield the juice? Sayana says the wind blows fast in front of 
the mortar because of the speed of the pestle's constant blow! Where is 
the pestle in the Rik? Here again, the Rik is seemingly ritualistic, but really 
reveals seciets of the action of Yoga-force in the inner sacrifice. Mortar 
is indeed the material body; Vayu is the life-force which is stimulated and 
by far strengthened at this stage, thus helping the body to give out the 
rasa. Without a strong life-force awake and active nothing can be done in 
the body whatever may be the light of knowledge that may fall upon it; 
the light does not enter a feeble frame, and even if it enters the weak material 
cannot hold it without a strong vital support. Only when it is endowed 
with a strong and well-poised life-force in action, can the body be willing 
to give itself joyfully i.e. the rasa for Indra's drink. 

1 3cT FT ^ 3FTCR% WRft 



7. Implements of sacrifice, best of strength-givers, sport high on like 
the two bay-horses of Indra munching noisily. 1 

Here again, the dual number is used in the address. Who are addressed 
is left to be understood and in the ritualist's interpretation, they are the 
inevitable pestle and mortar and they give food, vdja. They are the imple- 
ments of sacrifice dyaji. Because of the movement of the pestle in the 
mortar, they give loud sound; uchcha is thus interpreted without warrant. 
The straight meaning is uchchaih vihdra; they sport high on like the two 
horses of Indra champing grain. 

In the esoteric interpretation, the implements are really the two platters; 
they are of the forest vanaspati as the next verse confirms by stating so 
expressly. They are the procurers of strength in its plenitude vdjasdtamam. 
They sport high above, like Indra's horses. Because of their conjoint 
action and movement in the upper regions of the being of the Yogin, the 
Yajamana, they procure strength increasingly and receive the rasa of the 
being for offering. Indra's two horses are used as a simile here for their 
capacity for enjoyment. It is much more than a simile. Life and mind 
themselves representing force of action and light of knowledge are the 
twin vehicles of the Divine Mind, the ruler of the triple words and king 
of the Gods, Indra. 

8. O, Lords of the forest, mighty with the mighty pressors, press out 
today the most sweel soma juice for Indra's drink. 2 

Rishwa means great or mighty; to press out the juice strength is neces- 
sary; hence with the help of other preists present in the sacrifice the juice 
is to be pressed out of the platters. 

But in the inner ritual, the Rishi calls upon the platters of Life and Mind 
to press out the Rasa with the help of the mighty Powers of Knowledge 
and Power who are ever ready to render assistance to the aspiring soul 
that'has consecrated itself for the Godward life; and this demands the giving 
up of all one is and has for the acceptance and enjoyment of the higher 
Powers of the Universal Purusha to whom all that one is and has really 


3FWT 1 1 


9. What remains, hold in the two chamasa vessels; pour the Soma on 
the filter and set the residue on the cow-hide. 1 

In the ritual we know the juice is purified and strained and then poured 
into a large wooden cup or vessel called the drona-kalasha. The dregs 
are set in the cow-hide. 

Thus the outer rite was rapidly performed straightway offering the be- 
verage to Indra who is invoked to come down to drink in the first four 

In the inner sacrifice, when we take into consideration the context, the 
chamu or the chamasa is a bowl and the two bowls are nothing else but 
the cups of the vital body and the mental body which were referred to by the 
symbolic platters, when they were used for the extraction of the Rasa. 
But now, when the process is complete they are referred to as separate 
vessels to signify the yogic secret that though life and mind function in 
the body as part of it, they really are separate entities and are separated 
by the Yoga-force for readjustment in the new set-up for the consumma- 
tion of the Yoga. Those who kave studied Sri Aurobindo on the Ribhus 
can not fail to appreciate the Yogic fact that out of the one bowl, four bowls 
are made for the Yogin by the Ribhus, who were once human beings, but 
have become gods by dint of their tapasya and help Indra in a variety of 
ways; they are indeed 'artisans of Immortality'. Thus the juice of delight 
is taken up in the two bowls of Life and Mind. They are then poured into 
the Kalasha which is the material body. The residue is kept in the hide of 
cow which is the covering and protection of the Ray of Light in the phy- 
sical frame of man. 

We have stated that symbolism is the key to unlock the secret of the 
Veda; but the device of symbolism dating back from the age of the Rig 
Veda has been used in the latter scriptures also, closing with the Epics, 
Puranas and Tantric works. But it is the Brahmanas following the Vedas 
that openly gave symbolic explanations of the rituals and necessarily of 
the hymns used in them and this fact was recognised by later authors in 
their commentaries on the Brahmanas and on the Upanishads which form 



parts of them. The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad forms the close of the 
I4th chapter of the Shatapatha Brahmana. Out of a number of examples 
we shall choose one to show how symbols were interpreted by Acharyas 
like Shankara, though that does not mean they recognised the close-knit 
symbolism of the hymns of the Rig Veda rich with deep meaning and pro- 
found truths of spiritual wisdom. But it undoubtedly shows that these 
later teachers of Vedanta know that there are many passages in the Upa- 
nishads and the Veda Samhitas which are symbolic, while some others 
are riddles and puzzles and the like. The passage occurs in Br. Up. 2.2.3. 
It refers to a bowl chamasa with its base or bottom above and opening below. 
The Glory that is the universe of forms or the All-form is laid in if, says 
the text. 1 The Upanishad, rather the Brahmana itself proceeds to give 
the explanation on which Shankara remarks: 'What is this chamasa with hole 
below and base above? It is the head which is above like a chamasa 
bowl, and the mouth is the aperture below. In that bowl is laid the All- 
form. Just as Soma is kept in the bow! 5 the universe of forms or the All- 
form is set in the head etc. 52 This is just an instance to show that the sym- 
bolic meaning was recognised and quote* by philosophers of later times 
even though they were immured with the idea and spirit of their age when 
the tradition that the Veda was a book for rituals, karmakanda, had long 
firmly settled itself in the minds of scholars and leaders of thought with 
great repute for originality. We may note in passing that when a meaning 
is not directly conveyed by the word, when it is not evident, but indirect 
and concealed, it is called paroksha-vachana which term is used in the 
Brahmana-Upanishads whenever there is symbolism or riddle or some- 
thing apparently incongruous or even repulsive. When we meet with 
such passages, it is a sure indication that the sense is concealed and that 
it is a hint to find out the secret behind the apparent language. 

Now in unveiling the symbols of the Iliks used in the rapid rite of Soma, 
we have taken the help of other passages of the Rig Veda and taken into 
account the Yajurveda, the Veda most important for the ritualist as well 
as some Brahmana passages that have bearing on the question. We have 
already spoken of the two platters adhishavaniya as symbolic and 

2 ^: 

? ^ ft> Sf^f^vy: H<fK*J 

t fafffcf fPTcf 



explained it in a way that fits in with the rest of the symbols in the rite. And 
the White Yajurveda and tho Shatapatha Brahmana (2.9.4) proclaim them 
to be so, stating that the two platters are symbols of Earth and Heaven. 
With reference to grava this Brahmana says it is vajra and the blow it gives 
destroys what it calls papma, evil (or sin), the dark and opposing block of 
forces that prevents the release of the juice of delight, the flow of Soma; 
it is not the Soma that is destroyed., but the papma, papma hatah, na somah. 
The grava is above, its base is broad, the Vast above; it is the weapon of 
Indra who is above, it is Vajra in the outer world, but its character in the 
inner sense is Vak> speech; the Word from the higher heights coming from 
the region of the Indra. This is clear from many passages of the Rig Veda. 
The Gods are above and Indra is certainly above, he is invoked to come 
down to man and to accept his offering. He is there above, and lifts us 3 
mortals that we may live above. We shall cite a few passages here. 

1. O, Indra of hundred activities, stay on above for our growth (or pro- 
tection) in this our toil for plenitude (1.30.6) 

2. Stay on above like the God Savitr for our growth (or protection); 
Thou, above, bestower of plenitude (1.36.13). 

3. Thou above, guard us from evil, with thy flame of Intuitive vision 
burn every devouring demon (1.36.14). 

Urdhva-budhna, uru-budhna, prithu-budhna are in frequent use in the 
hymns e.g. IV.2.5; 1.169.6; X.47-3. This budhna is the base or foundation 
which is said to be above, urdhva, extensive and vast, uru> broad and wide, 
expansive prithu. It is used as an adjective to grava and to some other things 
that are to come from above, related to the Gods. In a verse Indra is called 
upon to bestow upon the Rishi the wealth which is at once deep gabhira, 
wide and vast uru> based in the vast prithu-budhna. It is an interesting Rik 
which reveals the real nature of the wealth above for which the Rishis 
prayed and toiled. "Riches, full of powerful Mantras (su-brahmanam) 
God-possessing, high above, wide and based on vast foundations above, 
virile with the Rishi's inspiration, conquering the enemy (that is the oppo- 
sing force) such riches, mighty and colourful, vouchsafe to us" (X.47-3). 
Similar is the Stone, Indra' s grava of the lofty heights. It is the Heaven's 
bolt of thunder which is indeed a symbol of the voice of Indra above which 
is invoked to drop down for the destruction of the enemy(II.30.5). The 
'Stone 5 voices with the sound of the singer's chant (1.83.6). The 'Stone' 
attracts with its voice the mind of Indra (1.84.3), "Go you both (Indra and 
Vayu) there where the stone voices forth" (1.135.17). Again the stones of 
the lofty heights (111.53.12), c the voiceful stone laid on the altar' ^.31.4), a 
variegated stone set in the midst of Heaven (V.47-3). These c stones' are of 



Heaven and from the heights of being; they are not of earth, not the common 
stones used to press the creeper Soma. For the Soma is of Heaven and 
pressed by the symbolic stones for offering to the Gods,, tarn twain devebhyo 
gravabhih sutah (IX. 80.4), 'pressed by the Stone, O, Soma, you enter the 
sieve strainer bestowing valiant strength on the chanter' (IX.6y.i9). These 
are a few lines out of the hundreds one frequently comes across in the hymns 
that go to show that the 'Stone' and other objects used in the ritual are 
symbolic and reveal the inner truths of the Vedic Yoga of which the seers 
were adepts. We shall close this short study with one last reference to a 
Rik in Vamadeva's hymns (17.27.5) where the kalasha though outwardly a 
beaker, refers certainly to the body. It is a famous hymn quoted in the 
Upanishads and as such is admittedly, even according to the ritualistic 
commentaries, rich with spiritual truths and therefore of inner significance. 

'Let Indra accept the white beaker, annointed with the cow's yield, filled 
with the luminous liquid etc.' Here the beaker kalasha., is the drona-kalasha 
used in the rite. But it is symbolic and indicates the body which is annointed 
with the Ray of Light, it is 'white' i.e. it is pure and filled with the shining 
rasa, the liquid of Soma, Delight. Here is a fine specimen of a hymn which 
openly proclaims the spiritual truth of Vamadeva in the womb for Divine 
birth and his experience in the iron-gated cities etc; it uses plainly, in the 
last verse quoted above, ritualistic objects. This would be incongruous in 
the extreme, if something deeper were not meant, deeper than the beaker 
and milk and the juice of a creeper. 

Such is the character of the Vedic ritual meant for outward worship; such 
is the nature of the symbolic objects prayed for and the materials used in the 
sacrificial rite; such also is the nature of the deeper truths of the hymns 
which keep to the inner sense quite closely and yet maintain to a large extent 
the outward form and meanmg suitable to the understanding and use of the 
un-initiate. The salient feature that must be noted is this that while 
thq hymns occasionally throw the exoteric sense overboard when so warranted 
by a necessity for the esoteric pressing overtly for prominence, still in most 
hymns the outer meaning le-aps to the eye and the hyrnn 1.28 used in the rite 
of Anjah-sava is a typical example to show that the ritual is no ordinary 
rite and that the hymn is not an off-hand or laboured composition of the 
priestcraft, that it has a revelatory significance and meaning deeper than 
what strikes the mmd at first thought. And Shunah-shepa is a seer of renown, 
a seer whose victorious release from the triple bond of mind and life and 
body has given rise to allegories and impossible legends, whose other hymns, 
and many Riks in them, rank high among the plainly spiritual passages of 
lofty ideas and occult truths in the hymnal text. Thus when we study the 



hymns with the necessary background the secret of the Veda becomes appa- 
rent, the inner truth becomes lucid and transparent and we begin to appre- 
ciate more fully and intelligently the Master's words that the Vedic Seer 
was also a priest who officiated at public sacrifices and chanted the hymns 
whose real purport, the inner truth of Divine Wisdom was known to him 
and the initiate. 

Theories of Human Progress and 
Sri Aurobindo 


growth of man in society is a fascinating subject for study and 
research. Thinkers have looked at the question from various angles 
and have formulated different theories regarding the social development 
of man through the ages. We v/ill attempt to present some of the more 
important of these in their large lines, evaluate them inter alia in the light 
of Sri Aurobindo's thought, bearing in mind contemporary advanced opi- 
nion, and give a brief outline of the Master's own exposition of the subject. 
An alternating rhythm of repose and activity, movement and cessation 
of movement characterises the life of the universe. Discussing this feature 
with reference to human civilisations Prof. Toynbee draws attention to the 
interesting concept of YIN and YANG in the Sinic imagery. Yin is the 
static and Yang the dynamic. The nucleus of the sinic character which 
stands for Yin seems to represent dark coiling clouds overshadowing the 
Sun, while the nucleus of the character which stands for Yang seems to 
represent the unclouded sun-disk emitting its rays. In the Chinese formula 
Yin is always mentioned first.' And this is in keeping with the Eastern 
tradition which has always regarded activity posterior to and consequent 
upon an antecedent state of repose. Brahma the creator is born out of and 
rests for support on the recumbent figure of Vishnu lying on the folds of 
Sesha. The creative Power of Dynamis Kali performs her whirl of dance 
on the immobile body of Shiva. Proceeding out of a state of repose, activity 
has perforce to come to halt in repose, though only to set out on a further 
career of movement. This fundamental trait of swing between the Yin- 
static and Yang-dynamic has governed all the manifestations in the universe, 
particularly human effort at a mastery and governance of life, within and 



without, which is what we usually describe as civilisation. Many have been 
such endeavours by human societies more than twenty of them have been 
listed but all of them have been subject, more or less in a uniform manner, 
to the eternal laws of Yin and Yang. The process is the same. A society 
content to rest in its primitive state is provoked out of its Yin stage to meet 
a certain difficulty challenge thrown by Nature and in acting responsively 
to it the society passes into a Yang stage and the period of growth commences. 
In the very process of responding to the challenge a further challenge is 
provoked and so on. The society continues to grow till it successfully meets 
the challenges; but the moment it flags, the Yang stage begins to end, the 
society begins to lapse back into the Yin. But it will be a mistake to assume 
that all the human societies have been simply engaged in a mechanical 
repetitive movement. The wheel turns round its own axle, again and 
again in a tireless way, true. But in performing its revolutions the wheel 
moves forward also. The movement of human society taken collectively 
does show such a forward inarch. In what direction does the progress tend? 
Does a detached study of the past civilisations give us any clue as to the 
decisive factors influencing their career? 

Systematic attempts have been made by serious students of history to 
study this vast saga of the rise and fall of human societies from the beginnings 
of recorded time with a view to find out the prime or the predominant factor 
which influences, governs and shapes their movement. There is what is 
called the Theological Interpretation of History. It looks upon history as 
the Drama of the Will of God. All events are determined by Him. Syste- 
matised as it was in Europe, it was inevitable that the theory should have 
been woven round the figure of Christ. 'Its earliest apologists sought to 
show how the world had followed a divine plan in its long preparation for 
the life of Christ. From this central fact of all history, mankind should con- 
tinue through war and suffering until the Divine plan was completed at the 
judgement day. The fate of nations is in God's hands; history is the revela- 
tion of His wisdom and power. Whether He intervenes directly by miracle 
or merely sets his laws in operation, he is the master of men's fate.' (Encyclo- 
paedia of Britannica). Bishop Bossuet worked out this theory in great detail 
(in his famous Histoire Universelle) and sought to prove that the key to the 
understanding of History was in the Will of God. But the Will does not 
work, in the very nature of things, openly and palpably; it works, he said, 
through secondary and natural causes. And it is to these latter that we have 
to turn for guidance in our study. Logically pursued, this theory led one to 
these 'secondary and natural causes' for explanations of history rather than 
to an inferential Will of God. 



In India we have the theory of the Time-Cycle which though it may not 
correspond fully with the aforesaid Theological theory, yet has something 
in common with it based as it is on Puranic theology. According to this 
tradition, the movement of the universe is entirely dependent upon the 
character of the particular period of cycle, the age through which it is passing. 
There are four periods in the Cycles of Time through which creation is 
ceaselessly revolving. Each Age has its own governing motif the Yuga- 
Dharma. Thus in the first Age, the Krita Yuga, man is perfect; society is 
ideal. Each lives by his own effort, realisation and achievement krita. 
The second Age is the Treta Yuga, the Age of Laws and Rituals. Treta 
refers to Treta Agni the fire to be worshipped, symbolising the ritualist 
character of the time. This is followed by the Dvapara Yuga the Age 
of scepticism, Doubt, result of intellectual efflorescence. Dvapara is that 
which has two Yugas preceeding it. Dvapara is also a synonym for 
doubt. And doubt once entered leads irresistibly to the fall, the Age of 
Kali, when Dharma, virtue ebbs. That is the last age of the Cycle when 
things are irremediably wrong and mankind rushes headlong to perdition. 
At the end of this Cycle the creation once more passes round into the first 
Age and so the procession goes on. All is the working-out of the Time- 
Cycle, Kalachakra, ane the central fact which governs everything is the 
Yuga-Dharma, the Dharma of the Age which in the last analysis is indeed 
the Will of the Lord. 

The limitations of such theories are obvious. They belittle human per- 
sonality and shift the onus of responsibility wholly on an entity beyond 
the cosmos. Man sinks into an insignificant creature tied helplessly to 
the workings of an extra-cosmic Will or Law. Whatever the occult tradition 
embodied in this way, clearly it is not accepted as a rational explanation 
of the workings of human societies. 

The next theory we take up for consideration seeks to find the all-sufficing 
explanation not in God's Will but in God's chosen race. It is the character 
of the Race which is produced that decides the nature and quality of the 
civilisation. There is a race which has been specially designed by Nature 
to rule and govern; the rest are to accept its domination. Wherever this 
scheme of Providence has been fully accepted and worked, there you see 
the most brilliant results. This theory was developed at length during the 
early years of the last century by M. Comte de Gobineau who held that 
the Nordic Man equipped with special spiritual and mental superiority, 
possessed the key of civilisation in his hands. He was the 'blond beast' 
of Nietzsche. The Nordic blood it was that shaped the destinies of the 
early Romans and the Greeks. The connotation of the superior race was 


rendered elastic so as to include the whole of the Teutonic peoples and 
later the Aryan race from whom originally the great civilisation-pioneers 
had branched out. 'It formed a special breed of men, whose various branches 
have dominated every civilised region of the world'. A civilisation founded 
by such a race, they said, is the highest; it maintains its quality and achieve- 
ment as long as the race maintains its purity. But with the deterioration 
in race purity, the debasement and decline of the civilisation commences. 
It was with a view to stop such a downward movement that Madison Grant 
sounded the alarm in America when he called for severe restriction of 
immigration of Southern Europeans so that the element of Nordic blood in 
the American race may not get reduced, thereby impairing the quality or 
their civilisation. 

Now it is a question that is open to more than one answer whether race 
intermixture is productive of beneficial results or the contrary. History 
is strewn with instances of civilisations springing up with abundant vitality 
when fresh blood was infused in the older peoples. Besides, is there anything 
like pure race? We are afraid there is none. Even assuming for a moment 
that civilisation is synonymous with the White or Aryan or Nordic race, 
what about the contributions of the Yellow race who have one of the oldest 
of civilisations to their credit? What about the Red race in the Americas 
who have fathered at least four important civilisations viz. Andean, Mayan, 
Yucatec and the Mexic? We have no historical record of the contributions 
of the Black race. But such bits of their customs and culture as survive 
in their music and dance do point to a past heritage now sunk into the 
sands of time. 

Besides, it is a fact to be noted that environmental differences do make 
for differences even among peoples of the same race-stock. The descen- 
dents of the Anglo-saxon emigrants populating the continent of Australasia 
today could hardly be said to have kept their racial characteristics un- 
influenced by the southern environment they have inhabited for generations 
now. The changes in the lives of the descendents of the Dutch and English 
settlers in South Africa are another instance to the point. 

That brings us to the claim of the Geographical Interpretation of History 
to give the correct clue to the rise and decadence of societies. According to 
this theory of which Montesquieu is a noted protagonist, it is the nature 
of the physical environment and the climatic conditions that go to determine 
the very character and temperament of the men inhabiting the country 
and consequently the shape of the society that ensues. In the colder climates, 
men are energetic and industrious; in the tropics they are enervated and 
prize idleness and sloth over everything else. (Non-activity is for them 



the highest conceivable good and therefore a special feature of Heaven; 
heat with which they are oppressed constantly is the dominating feature 
of Hell.) Hence it is that all empires have been founded by the vigorous 
invader from the cold North. The climatic factor has tipped the scale 
in favour of the invigorating northerner. Apart from climate, purely physical 
factors like coast-lines, deltas, rivers play a large part in the founding of 
kingdoms and societies. How many civilisations sprang up on the coasts 
of the Mediterranian? And how many have disappeared from the face of 
the earth with the desication of the vegetation or with the advent of more 
violent physical disturbances? 

To these questions posed by the champions of the theory, the opponents 
put a counter-question. Have not great nations appeared everywhere 
on earth in totally different climates? Have environments of the same nature 
given birth to identical or at least similar outbursts of activity? Why is 
it that we do not find nomadic societies of the kind found in Eurasian and 
Afrasian Steppes in the parallel environments 'of the prairies of North 
America, the Llanos of Venezuela, the Pampas of Argentina' until they 
were developed by western emigrants? They point, for instance, to the An- 
dean civilisation on a high plateau as contrasted with the primitive state 
prevailing in the Amazonian forests below. 'Was then', one asks, 'the plateau 
the reason why the Andean society forged ahead of its savage neighbours? 
Before we admit the idea we ought to glance at the same equatorial lattitudes 
in Africa where the East African highlands fringe the forests of the Congo 
Basin. We shall find then in Africa the plateau was no more productive 
of a civilised society than the tropical forests of a great river valley.' 

We need not proceed with the question further but only observe that 
climatic and geographical factors could at best operate as incentives or 
restricting factors and that too only as long as man has not acquired suffi- 
cient means to control, conquer and use his environments to his best advan- 
tage. They cannot be said to have decisive or even predominant say in 
the birth and growth of human societies. 

And then we have the Economic Interpretation of History. According 
to th?s Historical Materialism or Economic Determinism, propounded 
with such devastating effect by Karl Marx who is its high priest, the eco- 
nomic is the fundamental factor in the progress of society. It is the eco- 
nomic pressure that effected the transition of humanity from its primitive 
hunting and pastoral stage into the agricultural and handicraft age a 
transition that was marked with momentous consequences. No less was 
the economic factor determinant of the next changeover to the Industrial 
and Machine Age. Political, social and other structures stand on the solid 



foundation of economic realities. Nations fight and die, not for idealistic 
and altruistic purposes., but for economic advantages. Behind the fa9ade 
of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity, the slogans of the French Revolution, 
lay the brutal fact that a new bourgeois class had arisen in France which 
wanted to wrest control and power from the older feudal classes. It is 
the economic staying power that determines the life and strength of a society. 
Egypt was powerful once because of its iron, England because of her tin 
mines in former days and of coal in the modern. Sheer economic pressure 
and necessity will force the vast proletariats of the world to unite and ride 
rough-shod over the bourgeois classes and assert themselves so as to usher 
in a new era of classless, stateless society. 

Such an explosive doctrine as this has naturally vehement adherents 
and equally determined opponents. Suffice it to say the economic motive 
has indeed an important role in the development of human communites; 
but that could not be by any means the sole determining factor. Man 
and after all it is aggregates of men that constitute societies is much more 
than an economic animal, in spite of Karl Marx. The physical necessities 
of life do not exhaust his requirements though we must admit they have 
so far occupied a disproportionately large part of his attention. Once a 
certain minimum of physical comfort and leisure is attained he turns his 
attention increasingly to the other parts of himself, viz. his emotions, his 
heart, his aesthetic and intellectual demands, the mind and even his soul. 
In fact man feels he is most himself when he is freed from obligations of 
economic nature and is allowed to freely develop his other sides. A civili- 
sation or culture is thus measured for its contribution to the sum-total of 
human progress by the effort it puts in towards the cultivation and culture 
of the non-physical, the mental, vital and psychic side of man. Man is 
essentially a mental being and the search for the key to his movements 
can be conducted most fruitfully along the mental the psychological 
route charted by the human spirit from the beginnings of time. Thus con- 
sidered, the theories we have taken note of convict themselves of narrow 
limitation and one-si dedness. They explain, each of them, partial processes 
of one, although important, side of social progress. They account for con- 
tributory factors, not the decisive influences. They emphasise the physical 
basis of man to the exclusion of the workings of his mind and soul. Their 
attention is concentrated, as Sri Aurobindo observes, 'on the external 
data, laws, institutions, rites, customs, economic factors and developments, 
while the deeper psychological elements so important in the activities 
of a mental, emotional, ideative being like man have been very much 




It is only a psychological theory of history that can give us a true insight 
into human social development, in which a specific line of progress is un- 
mistakably discernible. Historians have piled up an imposing array of 
statistics of the number of arrested civilisations, effete civilisations and 
dead civilisations as an illustration of the utter futility of man's effort in 
the face of the Nemesis of decay and disintegration to which all that is 
born of Nature is inescapably subject. Some authorities seriously believe 
that man is steadily deteriorating, that he cannot, try however he might, 
touch again the heights reached by those fathers of Grecian and Roman 
cultures, which stand 'apparented' to the modern Christian Civilisation of 
Europe, or the sublime heights lived in by the Rishis of the Vedic Age 
who were the progenitors of the Indie civilisations. There may be something 
to be said in support of this reading of the present state of human affairs. 
But the line of human progress is not rectilinear. Human evolution proceeds 
in a cyclic manner. The cycles of evolution tend always upward, but 
they are cycles and do not ascend in a straight line. The process therefore 
gives the impression of a series of ascents and descents, but what is essential 
in the gains of the evolution is kept or, even if eclipsed for a time, reemerges 
in new forms suitable to the new ages.' (Sri Aurobindo) Thus when the 
evolutionary movement in its spiral rotation turns round and round, it 
seems to come back to the same old point, relapse from the height previously 
attained; but that is only an appearance. The direction of the move continues 
to be upward. Sri Aurobindo's exposition of the Psychological Stages 
through which Human sociological evolution has proceeded opens a fresh 
vista peering into the rich future towards which humanity is being determined 
by the cumulative action of its meaningful past and labouring present. 

Human society passes through certain distinct periods, each with its 
special stress on a particular faculty of the human being the whole move- 
ntent tending towards a well-planned integral cultivation and development 
of the entire complex personality. Thus beginning with what may be 
called the Symbolic age, humanity passes successively into the Typal, 
the Conventional, the age of Individualism and Reason, followed by the 
Subjective age which ultimately opens out in the consummative Spiritual 

Societies, in their early periods, are always governed by a strong symbolic 
mentality. They are highly imaginative and religious and are readily prone 
to read into things more than what meets the physical eye. Objects and 
phenomena in external nature provide for them images for things and facts 



in their own personal life. Thus for instance in the early age of the Vedic 
Rishis in India, the hill with its rising plateaus recalled to their mind an 
image of human life with its ever-soaring heights. The flowing rivers 
image the ever current flow of life-energies. Not merely that. To their 
religious imagination, everything in the physical universe was instinct 
with Something else that stood behind. And with a daring natural to the 
uninhibited, intuitively guided mind of the age, attempts were made to break 
through the veils and live out the higher truths, first in the inner life and 
then in the outer with the appropriate use of symbolic forms. It goes 
without saying that the highest achievements of such a period were always 
confined to the select of the society who took care to guard the Mysteries; 
but the impress of this symbolic structure of life was left on the entire 
society. Such were the societies in Early Egypt, Greece, Chaldea and India. 
The whole of life, its customs, institutions came to be so formed as to be the 
symbols constantly pointing to the existence and active participation of God 
or Gods from above and around. In this Symbolic age religion and spiritual 
practice were not parts of life; they were indeed the whole of it. The Spiri- 
tual Idea standing at the centre was all-dominating. It is only wkh the 
passage of time that a shift of emphasis is descernible, a shift from the acti- 
vating spiritual truth around which the entire symbolic institutions were 
built up to the organisation of the psychological and ethical framework to 
stabilise the working of the Idea. Attention is now rivetted on the formulation 
of Types. That is the Typal Age when Ideals come to be set up and pursued 
for their own sake. It is the Dharma that is paramount. The spiritual 
truth behind the institutions is not completely forgotten but tends to be 
relegated progressively into the background. But a time does come in the 
life of the society when its attention is so much absorbed in the external 
machinery, external rituals and ceremonies that the Truth which they are 
supposed to serve is altogether lost to sight. That is the Conventional 
Age of which Medieval Europe and pre-Buddhist India provide striking 
examples. 'The conventional stage of human society is born when the 
external supports, the outward expressions of the spirit or the idea become 
more important than the idea, the body or even the clothes more important 
than the person.' (Sri Aurobindo) 

The climax of this tendency is the establishment and even enforcement of 
the rule of rigid hierarchies, traditional forms and authorities to the , utter 
exclusion of the spirit of the Truth which has in fact departed. It is the 
'petrified typal figure' that rules; the old truths have been lost, the con- 
ventions and practices that aped them have also lost all significance. They 
survive by sheer force of custom and habit. This chasm between the conven- 



tional form and the original truth cannot continue to last without rendering 
the position intolerable and provoking challenges to this rule of the sham. 
Men can no longer tolerate the tyranny of forms and they set about with such 
aids as Reason, Doubt, Scepticism, to storm and demolish the ramparts of 
the whole brood of forms, conventions, types and symbols and seek to refold 
the lost truth. That is the end of the conventional age and the commence- 
ment of the Age of Individualism and Reason. The stifling reign of the 
Yajnikas and the Pundits can only be ended by the relentless logic of Nirvana. 
If the Symbolic Age sees the blossoming and exercise of the intuitive and 
spiritual faculties of man and if the Typal Age marks the culture and deve- 
lopment of the psychological and ethical side, the Individualist Age is 
predominantly the reign of Reason. Man begins to doubt everything, ques- 
tion everything and would want to be satisfied unto his reason before accept- 
ing anything as valid. This is the age of scepticism, of revolt, in the crucible 
of which all hitherto accepted standards and conventions have to pass, if 
they are to survive and claim the allegiance of the human mind which is out 
to find the Truth. The most notable outflowering of this time-spirit is to 
be seeh in modern Europe. Of course Reason needs a certain touch-stone 
wherewith to test its discoveries, a standard of its own for proper assessment 
of values. And this the European mind has found in Physical Science. The 
services of this era of physical science and development of reason in the 
clearing of much ground of accumulated, dead-weight conventionalism and 
stagnant orthodoxy cannot be overestimated. No doubt there has arisen 
another danger from the other end viz. a reluctance to accept anything which 
does not stand the test of purely empirical physical science and consequently 
a threatened impoverishment of the heritage of knowledge and life open 
to man. Fortunately the danger seems to have passed. In its efforts to 
expand its domain,, physical science has burst its self-imposed boundaries 
and has stumbled upon phenomena which can only be satisfactorily explain- 
ed by sciences which base themselves not upon matter as the sole reality, 
but proceed upon other, and what are increasingly coming to be recognised 
as larger and more powerful, bases of existence, viz. life, thought and the 
Soul. The gaze of the thinker is turned to these subtler layers of man where 
he feels for the governing Truth of the Individual and the Society. The 
turn is towards the subjective and marks the beginning of the Subjective 
Age. Nietzsche's Will to be, Bergson's Elan Vital are the signposts 
of this turn towards the enthronement of Life in the place of Matter 
as the sole determining principle in existence. The attempt however was 
bound to fail; for, while the life-principle is undoubtedly the most dynamic 
in the constitution of man, there are other deeper and higher principles 



which can and do exercise a directional control over the operations of the 
life-force in him and his society. Dissatisfied with their expectations from 
the Life-eidolon, attempts are made to tap the other fountain-sources like 
those of mind and the subliminal parts of man. The astonishing growth of 
the science of psychology and para-psychology and experiments to guide men 
and events, even public affairs, in the light of their conclusions are an unmis- 
takable sign of this subjectivism in approach to the problems of life that is a 
revealing feature of the present-day v/orld. 

The central truth of life however eludes the grasp on all these levels of 
the complex personality of man for the simple reason that the essentially 
motivating forces and impulsions issue from a deeper truth the soul. The 
soul of man is the true fulcrum of his existence and the key to the all-round 
happiness of the individual and the establishment of true harmony in the 
collectivity is to be found there alone from where Love and Harmony well 
up in their native fount. When this fact comes to be recognised, as indeed 
it is being gradually done at the present moment, that is a sure indication of 
the right turn of human mind. For once it is recognised that man can find 
his true happiness and goal only if he shifts his centre of activity and vision 
to a deeper base within himself, that is to say, if he develops the values 
of the soul, erects a synthesis out of them and lives out his life in conformity 
with this guiding light to lead him, once this need is intimately felt and 
recognised, man is bound to take, sooner or later, practical steps to actualise 
this perception of truth in his own life. Such endeavours have been there for 
long ages, it may be said, and they have not made much difference to humanity 
at large. While the point may be conceded, we must note one important 
difference ; n the present-day awakening to this need and the past way of 
looking at the question. Today, it is not merely the individual who seeks the 
inner light for his personal deliverance and upliftment. There is a general 
awakening to the necessity of setting the soul-factor operate more openly and 
effectively, not merely for the solution of the individual problem, but much 
more as the only possible answer to the larger problem, the one remedy 
for the ills with which humanity is so acutely afflicted. This tendency as it 
spreads, indicates that we are on the threshold of the age of fulfilment 
the Spiritual Age, Satya Yuga towards which humanity has been all along 
struggling to ascend and for which it has equipped itself with a progressive 
many-sided development of the various members of its corporate being. 

In the light of this approach, we will see that the tneories we considered 
earlier, while inadequate in themselves as explanations of the sense and 
direction of the social development of man, do get after all a respectable 
standing ground in the larger perspective. Each of them explains to a 


considerable extent the mode of working of the Human Evolutionary Spirit, 
its process of selection and effectuation in the material world. Even the 
theological theory has value in as much as it emphasises that the movement 
of the universe is not aimless; it is governed and directed with a Purpose 
whatever the purpose be. It is this purposive Spirit that lends significance 
to the details in its field of working and once we understand the nature 
of its Goal and the route of its movement as elucidated in Sri Aurobindo's 
treatment of the question we are better equipped to appreciate the past and 
present trends of human thought on the progress of mankind at large. 


The Mother on Divine Union 


HPHERE are as many kinds of divine union as there have been mystics 
to realise it. Any supra-sensible and decisive experience in the 
inner consciousness is called divine union. Some Yogins, descending into 
the deeps of their being, realise an ineffable peace and call it divine union; 
some find themselves engulfed in an illimitable ocean of bliss or receive 
the torrential influx of a mighty power and call it divine union. Some 
realise the immutable Self and think that they have identified themselves 
with the Absolute. Some, again, unite themselves with the Divme in their 
hearts, hriddeshe, and cherish the belief that this is the highest possible 
union with the Master and Lover of all creatures. Instances like these 
could be multiplied ad infinitum, but that would hardly throw much light 
on the nature of the union we propose to deal with here. It is, of course, 
true that all these experiences and many more of the kind are genuine 
not that there cannot be any faked ones and that they are undoubtedly 
divine in so far as they are spiritual, but what is of capital importance is. 
first, whether all of them can be at all called union, and, second, whether 
they are union with the Divine. 

We are, therefore, naturally led to a consideration of what we mean by 
the Divine and union with Him. Most philosophies and theologies agree 
to disagree on this point. We are not, of course, concerned here with those 
philosophies which are avowedly atheistic or materialistic, but even among 
the theistic ones, there are various conceptions of the Divine. Some postulate 
Him as the extra-cosmic Lord and Master of the universe; some reagrd 
Him as immanent in and co-extensive with the universe; some envisage 
Him only as an all-pervading static Existence; and yet some as the inex- 
pressible, incommunicable, transcendent Absolute; and so on and so forth. 
The connotation of the words "divine union", therefore, varies according 
to the conception one has of the Divine. And then various things are meant 
by union, as we have already said above. Even in cases of authentic divine 



union, there are differences, not only of degree but also of kind, entailing 
considerable differences in their effects upon the consciousness of those 
who realise it. It is a vast and extremely interesting subject, but as it does 
not lie within the scope of our present object, we shall just touch upon it 
and pass on to the Mother's experiences of the divine union as transcribed 
in the "Prayers & Meditations". And in order to obviate a possible mis- 
understanding, we shall make it perfectly clear at the very outset that the 
union the Mother aspired for and realised, is not the traditional union 
experienced and held in the depths of the being and strenuously guarded 
against the disturbing elements of the surface-self and the surrounding 
world. That is a comparatively easy achievement the outer personality 
hushed, the deeper layers of the consciousness are released into activity 
and the soul either plunges headlong into the eternal immobility of the 
silent Brahman or enters, thrilled and transported, into the beatific embrace 
of the Beloved. Or it passes, swiftly or by slow stages, through various 
realms of the Spirit, bathing in their light and feeding on their delight, 
into the ineffable Absolute. Whatever consciousness persists in the outer 
personality, unless it is a complete trance, in which case there is a tem- 
porary suspension of all movements of the external nature is left to itself 
and its helpless automatism. Or sometimes, in some Yogins of exceptional 
calibre, the rapturous state of inner union is reflected to a certain extent 
on the outer nature; there is a reproduction or radiation of the inner peace 
and purity and joyous freedom and, subject to certain conditions, a more 
or less conscious and direct play of the divine Force in the natural personality 
which undergoes, in consequence, a remarkable heightening and acquires 
a new and infinitely more perfect and potent dynamism. But great as 
these states are and equally glorious to the undiscrirninating eye of mental 
intelligence, they are far from what the Mother has experienced and 
expressed in so many of her Prayers and Meditations. 

We shall now proceed to see what the Mother means by the Divine and 
the divine union. By the Divine she means and that is exactly the view 
of Sri Aurobindo, as we shall see presently the one infinite and eternal 
Person, Purusha, who is at once the transcendent Author and Lord of 
the universe of His own creation, which is but His own multiple self-exten- 
sion and self-representation in Himself, and immanent in it as a sustaining, 
guiding and consummating static and dynamic Presence. The Upanishad 
describes Him with a comprehensive sweep and a penetrating vividness: 

"But the divine and unborn and formless Spirit that containeth the 
inward and the outward is beyond mind and life and is luminously pure, 
and He is higher than the highest Immutable. 



And of Him is born life and the mind and all the organs of sense and of 
Him are Ether and Air and Light and Water and Earth that holdeth all. 

Fire is the head of Him and His eyes are the sun and the moon and the 
quarters are His organs of hearing and the revealed scripture is His speech; 
Air is His life-breath and the universe is His heart and earth is at His feet. 
He is the inner Self within all creatures. 

And from Him is fire, of which the sun is the fuel, rain that arises from 
the wine of the gods, and herbs that grow upon the earth; as when a man 
pours his seed into a woman, many creatures are born from the Spirit. 

And from Him are many kinds of gods produced and the demigods and 
men and the beasts and the birds, and the breath and the nether breath, 
and grain of rice and grain of barley, and faith and truth and holiness and 

And the seven breaths are born of Him, and the seven tongues of the flame, 
and the seven kinds of fuel and the seven kinds of offering, and the seven 
worlds in which the breaths, whose chamber is in the secret heart, move 
and are placed within, seven and seven. 

And from Him are the seas and all the mountains and from Him flow 
all forms of rivers, and all herbs are from Him, and sensible delight which 
maketh the soul to abide with the material elements. 

The Spirit is all this that is here in the universe: He is works and self- 
discipline and Brahman and the the supreme immortality." 1 

He is the eternal Ground of all things that were, are and will be. In Him 
there is no division, though He seems to be divided; no dualities and anoma- 
lies, though he creates them freely for the play of Ignorance with which 
evolution starts from Inconscience. He is the reconciliation of all differences 
and discords. He is the One, and He has become many; and this becoming 
is not an illusion, but a timeless fact of the divine Reality. And yet He is 
the ineffable, indefinable Absolute unconditioned, unqualitied and feature- 

It is clear that this comprehensive conception of the Divme is the fusion 
of all the current conceptions of religion? and philosophies, and embraces 
and unifies the diverse experiences of the mystics of all ages and climes. It 
does not negate or invalidate any truth of spiritual realization or give the lie 
to any sane and substantial finding of metaphysical speculation. In its 
luminous amplitude Vedanta joins hands with Sankhya, Tantra with Vaish- 
navism, Paganism with Christianity, and even Materialism finds its essential 
quest justified, rightly interpreted and enlightened, and itself united with 

1 "Mundaka II, Chap. I 



spirituality in a happy wedlock. It is a synthesis, not achieved by an intellec- 
tual or emotional eclecticism, but by a global spiritual experience a syn- 
thesis which reflects the manifold unity of all existence. It is an epitome 
of all the conceptions of the Divine, past and present, and bids fare to be the 
sovereign, dynamic spiritual conception of the future. 

"An omnipresent Reality", says Srf Aurobindo in the Life Divine (Vol. I, 
p. 51) "is the truth of all life and existence whether absolute or relative, 
whether corporeal or incorporeal, whether animate or inanimate, whether 
intelligent or unintelligent; and in all its infinitely varying and even con- 
stantly opposed expressions, from the contradictions nearest to our ordinary 
experience to those remote antinomies which lose themselves on the verges 
of the Ineffable, the Reality is one and not a sum or concourse. From that 
all variations begin, in that all variations consist, to that all variations return. 
All affirmations are denied only to lead to a wider affirmation of the same 
Reality. All antinomies confront each other in order to recognise one 
Truth in their opposed aspects and embrace by the way of conflict their 
mutual Unity. Brahman is the Alpha and the Omega. Brahman is the 
One besides whom there is nothing else existent." 

Now, union with this Divine or omnipresent Reality will, of course, 
mean union with Him at once in all the states of His consciousness and all 
the modes of His Being. Anything short of it may be a partial, but can 
never be a complete or integral union. A seeker of integral union has to 
be identified with the Chatushpada Brahman of the Upan^shad the 
Brahman of the waking consciousness, the Brahman of the dream or subli- 
minal consciousness,, the Brahman of the sleep consciousness and That of 
the transcendent, absolute consciousness. When one is fully identified with 
the Dwine in all these states of consciousness, one can be said to have 
realised the most complete union. Thus identified, one becomes, so to 
say, like the Divine Himself, at once transcendent and immanent, universal 
and individual, static and dynamic, one and many; and yet this point 
has to be carefully noted it is not a self-annihilation of the individual in 
the Divine, for that would mean an extinction of the very centre of mani- 
festation in the world. The individual persists as an eternal portion and 
aspect of the Transcendent in the universe, but liberated from all limitations 
and participating in the infinity and immortality of the Supreme. In a 
perfect union, one holds in a divine grip and balance all the four states 
described above. One is beyond all universe, inaccessibly poised in the 
inconceivable supracosmic silence, and yet moves in all the multiple 
movements of the world, guiding it to its ultimate destiny. No alternation of 
the states, but an unbroken and spontaneous simultaneity, a firm possession 



and a termless ecstasy of multitudinous enjoyment are the experience of 
the integral divine union. 

It goes without saying that we hardly ever come across any record in 
the ancient and modern scriptures and mystical hagiography of the world 
of such a comprehensive realisation, such a fourfold perfection of divine 
union. There have been many cases of transcendent union, necessitating 
a deliberate or automatic diminution of the activities of the surface nature, 
or, more usually, a temporary abrogation or suspension of the active physical 
self. Light has often been wooed and won, but at the expense of Life which 
has gone either pale or grey with neglect. But a fusion of Light and Life, 
of the One and the Many, of the Transcendent, the Universal and the 
individual, of utter silence and the stupendous stir and hum of the cosmic 
movement, of the Spirit and Matter in an integrated and divinized human 
consciousness, is an achievement yet unrecorded in the history of spiritual 
culture. 1 

Let us now try to follow in the footsteps of the Mother as she proceeds 
from one realization of union to another till the integral union is attained. 
Almost in the beginning of her "Prayers and Meditations" the Mother 
declares that she has realized divine union: "I said yesterday to that Eng- 
lishman who is seeking for Thee with so sincere a desire that I had defi- 
nitively found Thee, that the union was constant. Such is indeed the state 
of which I am conscious. All my thoughts go towards Thee, all my acts 
are consecrated to Thee; Thy Presence is for me an absolute, immutable, 

invariable fact, and Thy Peace dwells constantly in my heart how many 

times already when I pronounce it (the word "I"), it is Thou who spepkest 
in me, for I have lost the sense of separativity." 2 

The reader will find in this description a beautiful and living example 
of divine union. "I have definitively found Thee", "All my thoughts go 
towards Thee, all my acts are consecrated to Thee", "I have lost the sense 
of separativity." AU these words signify a state in which the Divine is not 
only discovered, but embraced and served even in the minute details of 
the Mother's life. And yet, she continues, "I know that this state of union 
is poor and precarious compared with that which it will become possible 
for me to realise tomorrow." She is not content with what would have 
been readily regarded by most mystics as the final attainment; she finds 

1 There is, it is true, the legend of Yajnavalkya who wished to possess both the 
worlds, ubhayameva, and also the Rajarishis (king-sages) and those "liberated in life" 
(Jivanmuktas); but the exact implications of their integral realisation have to be 

2 "Prayers and Meditations", p. 3. 



it "poor and precarious", for her aspiration is something much higher 
and wider, something that is ind'ssolubly bound up with the very mission 
of her life. And she gives expression to this aspiration in some of her 

"I aspire for the day when I can no longer say "I", for I shall be Thou". 1 

"Let the pure perfume of sanctification burn always, rising higher and 
higher and straigliter and straighter, like the ceaseless prayer of the integral 
being, desiring to unite with Thee so as to manifest Thee. 2 

In the second quotation we have the key-note of her sublime aspiration: 
"desiring to unite with Thee so as to manifest Thee." Not union in itself 
and for itself, for that has been already realised, but union for the sake 
of manifestation, that is to say, a permanent and active union in the whole 
consciousness and the whole nature. It is a union in which the Mother 
does not so much revel as reveal; it is a union for bridging "earthhood and 
heavenhood" and making deathless "the Children of Time". 

This, then, is the central truth of the Mother's aspiration, and unless 
we have a clear grasp of it, it would be difficult to follow in her footsteps 
through the Prayers which are a mounting symphony of dynamic union. 
There are many Prayers which may appear to be self-contradictory and 
self-repetitive, but that is a common experience of the human mind when it 
tries to follow the movements of an infinite consciousness and force whose 
incalculable flexibility and subtle self-modification baffles its comprehension. 
Most of the Prayers, especially the later ones, are a kaleidoscope of a diffi- 
cult perfectioning of the physical being of the Mother, without which the 
union of her longing could not be realised. This physical transformation 
is a revolutionary conception, extremely intricate and arduous in its process, 
involving a systematic exploration of the subconscient and the inconscient 
parts of the human being, and their eventual purification and illumination. 
A complete union includes a union even of these parts with the supercon- 
science and omniconscience of the supreme Reality. 

k is true that transcendental union, which means union with the Reality 
in its timeless and spaceless self-existence, is the first necessity. Unless 
we attain to the Transcendent, we remain tied to Time, cooped up in the 
cosmic formula. Complete liberation implies transcendence of the uni- 
verse and a secure superiority to the waves of Nature. But a naked, irrevoc- 
able retreat to the relationless Absolute cannot be the aim of the soul's 
incarnation in the world of relativities, it can only be an important episode 

1 ^Prayers and Meditations", p. 2. 
p. 13. 


in its spiritual evolution. If the soul has descended into Matter, it is only 
to transfigure it and mainfest the Divine in its transmuted substance. If 
it has descended into the relativities, it is to realise and fulfil the Absolute 
in the very play of the relativities. If it has come down into Time, it is only 
to reveal the Eternal in the very flux of Time. Therefore, after the transcen- 
dental union, the integral union, or, in other words, the perfect and 
permanent union of the whole being and consciousness of man with the 
Divine. In this integral union one does not lose the transcendental union, 
but only annexes to it the universal, dynamic union, and makes the inte- 
grality, thus attained, the base of an unfettered action in the world. The 
Mother expresses this idea in the following words : "Now I clearly under- 
stand that union with Thee is not an end to be pursued, so far as the present 
individuality is concerned; it is a fact accomplished long since. And that is 
why Thou seemest to tell me always, "Do not revel in the ecstatic contem- 
plation of the union, fulfil the mission I have confided to Thee on the earth." 

"And the individual work to be pursued simultaneously with the collec- 
tive work is the awareness and possession of all the activities and all the 
regions of the being and the definitive establishment of the consciousness 
in that highest point which will allow at once the prescribed action and a 
constant communion with Thee. The joy of perfect union can come only 
when what has to be done has been done." 

"We must preach to all, first, union, then work; but for those who have 
realised the union, each moment of their life must be an integral expression 
of Thy Will through them." 

Describing this union with a greater elaboration, the Mother says, "In 
all the states of being, in all the modes of activity, in all things, in all worlds, 
one can meet Thee and be united with Thee, for Thou art everywhere and 
ever present. He who has met Thee in one activity of his being or in one 
world in the universe, says: e l have found Him', and seeks no more for 
anything else; he thinks he has arrived at the summit of human possibility. 
What a mistake! It is in all states, in all modes, in all things, in all worlds, 
in all elements that we have to discover Thee and be united with Thee; 
and if we leave out one element, however small it may be, the communion 
cannot be perfect, the realisation cannot be accomplished. 

And that is why to find Thee is only the first step in an ascent that is 
innfitie". 1 

The Mother leaves no doubt in our minds as to the nature of the divine 
union she calls integral. Obviously, it is not a union on the heights of the 

1 "Prayers and Meditations'*, p. 156. 



being, nor is it realised only in the distant depths. It enfolds each and every 
element in the infinite existence and remains the same, whatever the field 
and role of action assigned to the individual. The prevalent idea that 
"consciousness of the Many and consciousness of the One are mutually 
exclusive states" is so strongly fixed in men's minds that it does not occur 
to them that the state they describe as union or complete self-absorption 
or self-annulment of the individual soul in the Reality "in which all outward 
things are forgot", is but a partial, a truncated union. If the Reality is every- 
where, at once in all worlds., in all states, in all beings and in all elements as 
well as beyond all states, all worlds and all elements, then a complete union 
with It will surely never exclude the "outward things"; for, in fact, there is 
nothing that is outward, nothing that is not essentially divine and contained 
in the Divine. A union that causes a forgetfulness of the outward things is 
a kind of trance, a limited and localised, intensive union, not an integral one. 
Tuned to an ampler key runs this other Prayer: 

"O Lord, Lord, a boundless joy fills my heart, songs of gladness surge 
through my head in marvellous waves, and in the full confidence of Thy 
certain triumph, I find a sovereign Peace and an invincible Power. Thou 
fillest my being, Thou animatest it, Thou settest in motion its hidden springs, 
Thou illuminest its understanding, Thou intensifiest its life, Thou increasest 
tenfold its love; and I no longer know whether the universe is I or I am the 
universe, whether Thou art in me or I am in Thee; Thou alone art and all 
is Thou; and the streams of Thy infinite Grace fill and overflow the 
world." 1 

Experience succeeding to richer and wider experience tends towards the 
final, dynamic identification. The path stretches interminable through 
the fields of inconscience. Often the gallop slows down to a trot and the 
trot to an amble; after the unspeakable rapture of a rapt union, a spell of 
"harsh solitude", "a desert arid and bare", but a new Light emerges 
from the heart of the solitude, a fresh gust of Force sweeps the being again 
to the summits and plunges it into a union incomparably deeper and 
more comprehensive than ever before. Here a word of caution is 
necessary. Those who have studied Western mysticism may run away 
with the idea that it is the "dark night of the soul" that the Mother 
describes by the phrases, "harsh solitude" and "a desert, arid and bare", 
a state of inevitable transition, of spiritual fatigue or of a desperate upsurge 
of the lower impurities before their final elimination. But even a 
cursory glance through the Prayers will belie this assumption. There is a 

1 "Prayers and Meditations", p. 14. 



ransition, of course, but a transition in the long and difficult process of trans- 
brming the physical consciousness by a descent into the subconscient and 
he inconstient and their conquest and illumination. These obscure regions 
>f the human consciousness, of which we know precious little, are still domi- 
lated by the twin principle of Ignorance and Falsehood, and unless their 
miversal base and dynamic are mastered and metamorphosed, unless Igno- 
ance is turned into Knowledge, darkness into Light, Falsehood into Truth 
ind suffering into Ananda, there is no possibility of any individual, however 
spiritually great he may be, achieving a complete conversion and transfor- 
nation of his physical being. It is this universal work that has engaged 
lie whole of the Mother's attention and labour, because it is the work which 
che Divine has entrusted to her. It is, in fact, the mission of her life. 

"Thy will is that from the heart of this heavy and obscure Matter I must 
let loose the volcano of Thy Love and Light. It is Thy will that, breaking 
all old conventions of language, there must arise the right Word to express 
Thee, the Word that never was heard before; it is Thy will that the integral 
union should be made between the smallest things below and the sublimest 
and most vast above; and that is why, O Lord, cutting me off from all reli- 
gious joy and spiritual ecstasy, depriving me of all freedom to concentrate 
exclusively on Thee, Thou hast said to me, 'Work as an ordinary man in 
the midst of ordinary beings; learn to be nothing more than they are in all 
that is manifesting; associate with the integral way of their being; for, beyond 
all that they know, all that they arc, thou earnest in thyself the torch of the 
eternal splendour which does not waver, and by associating with them, it is 
this thou wilt carry into their midst.' " l 

Sweeping through unimaginable experiences of ineffable ecstasy and 
utter desolation, the Divine lands her at long last on the threshold of the 
"Marvellous Way" where the Mother feels that "in the perfect union I am 
this plan and this Will, and I taste the supreme bliss of the infinite, even 
while I play with ardour, precision and energy, in the world of division, 
the special play Thou hast entrusted to me." 

"Thy power in me is like a fountain, strong and fertilizing, which clamours 
behmd the rocks, accumulating its energies to break down the obstacle and 
gush forth freely to the exterior, pouring over the plain to fertilize it." 2 

A further progress through the "sombre night" and the Mother emerges 
into the sunlight of a deeper union which finds expression in the following: 
"Thou hast taken entire possession of this miserable instrument, and if it 

1 "Prayers and Meditations", p. 221. 

2 ibid., p. 236. 



is not yet perfected enough for Thee to complete its transformation Thou 
art at work in each one of its cells to knead it, and make it supple and illumine 
it, and to class, organise and harmonise it in the ensemble of the being." 1 

Describing the detailed action of transformation leading to the integral 
union, the Mother says at one place: 

"Little by little, the vital being was habituated to find harmony in the 
most intense action, as it had found it in passive surrender. And once this 
harmony was sufficiently established, there was light again in all parts of 
the being, and the consciousness of what had happened became complete. 

"Now the vital being has recovered in the midst of action the perception 
of Infinity and Eternity, It can, through all sensations and all forms, per- 
ceive Thy supreme Beauty and can live it. Even in its sensation, extended, 
active and fully developed, it can feel the contrary sensations at the same 
time and always it perceives Thee." 2 

"Thou hast willed, O Lord, that the being should become larger and 
greater. It could not do so without entering again, at least partially and 
temporarily, into ignorance and obscurity. It is this ignorance and this 
obscurity that it has come now to place at Thy feet as the most modest of 
ordeals." 3 

When the spire of the temple of perfection gleams in the distance, the 
Mother hears in the silence of her being: 

"By renouncing everything, even wisdom and consciousness, thou wert 
able to prepare thy heart for the role which was assigned to it: apparently 
the most thankless role, that of the fountain which always lets its waters 
flow abundantly for all, but towards which no stream can ever remount; 
it draws its inexhaustible force from the depths and has nothing to expect 
from outside. But thou feelst already beforehand what sublime felicity 
accompanies this inexhaustible expansion of love 

"Be this love in everything and everywhere, ever more widely, ever 
more intensely and the whole world will become at once thy work and 
thy estate, thy field of action and thy conquest... Fight that thou may st 
conquer and triumph; struggle to surmount all that has been up to this day, 
to make the new Light emerge, the new example whioh the world needs." 4 

Another heroic advance through the darkness of Matter culminates in 
an experience of union of a unique depth and comprehensiveness: 

1 "Prayers and Meditations", p. 244. 

2 ibid., p. 248-49. 
8 ibid., p. 249. 

4 ibid., 264-65, 



"My heart has fallen asleep, down to the very depths of my being. 

The whole earth is in a stir and agitation of perpetual change; all life 
enjoys and suffers, endeavours, struggles, conquers, is destroyed and formed 

My heart has fallen asleep, down to the very depths of my being. 

In all these innumerable and manifold elements, I am the Will that moves, 
the Thought that acts, the Force that realises, the Matter that is put in motion. 

My heart has fallen asleep down to the very depths of my being. 

No more any personal limits, no more any individual action, no more any 
separative concentration creating conflict; nothing but a single and infinite 

My heart has fallen asleep down to the very depths of my being." 1 

We have called this experience unique, for, we believe there is nothing in 
the whole range of mystical literature to compare with it in depth and 
amplitude. Here there is a perfect, a divine combination of the abysmal 
silence of the Eternal and the stupendous movement of the Universal, 
There is sleep u down to the depths" of the being, a state of sushupti, the 
third state of the fourfold consciousness of the all-comprehending Brahman, 
the state of the Consciousness of the supreme Lord of the world, Sarveshwara. 
And in the very midst of that sleep there is a perception of the stir and agita- 
tion of perpetual change. Is it only a perception? Then it cannot be a 
total identification with the Lord of the universe. A total identification 
implies a participation, not only in the infinite Peace and Silence of the 
Lord, but also in the thrilled delight of the movement of His creative Force. 
And we have an illustration of the participation a full and integral participa- 
tion, in what follows: 

"In all these innumerable and manifold elements, I am the Will that 
moves, the Thought that acts, the Force that realises, the Matter that is put 
in motion." 

This is a complete dynamic identification. The Mother is identified with 
the Lord's Will, the Lord's creative Thought and the Lord's realising 
Force and, at the same time, with this inert and inconscient substance, this 
dark Matter which is being churned and redeemed and in which the integral 
union is to be consummated. And yet, implicit in the very grain of this 
identification, its inalienable base and sustenance, is the perfect identifica- 
tion of the Mother's consciousness with the Consciousness of the Absolute 
in its eternal Silence and Immutability. This combination constitutes what 
the Mother calls integral divine union. And still there may be many more 

1 "Prayers and Meditations", p. 283. 



conquests to be made and consolidated in the rolling fields of inconscience 
who knows? Matter is not only obscure but obdurate. Life is complex and 
convulsed with desires, and the Light invincibly insistent. What will be the 
issue? Who knows? Who cares to know? Man is enamoured of the tinsel 
and preoccupied with it, and has little time and less inclination to follow the 
labours of one whose sole object in life has been to dig "a bed for the golden 
river's song" and bring "the fires of the splendour of God into the human 
abyss." 1 

Not union with the Divine in the soul alone, not in the soul, mind and 
heart alone, but a union, a constant, dynamic, honey-dripping, life-trans- 
forming union even in the physical being, even in the cells of the body a 
complete and creative union between the Summit and the Base has been 
the labour of the Mother, not for herself alone, but for mankind. 

Man will one day awake from the nightmarish reality he calls his life and 
garner the golden harvest of a divine humanity upon earth, but know not 
who ploughed the fields and who sowed the seeds. God's Grace, even when 
it takes a human form, remains invisible to the fleshly eyes of material men. 

1 "Poems Past and Present": Sri Aurobindo. 


The Divine Maya 


HPHERE is an aspect of our nature which Sri Aurobindo has called the 
physical mind. Its reliance is almost entirely on the objective and 
it can, with very great difficulty only, be aware of the supraphysical or the 
subjective realities. The attitude of Physical Science is the same as that 
of the physical mind its test of reality is the objective, the physical, the 
actual. The physical mind being an aspect of mind, sometimes loses its 
faith in the reality of the objective world and doubts its own constructions. 
Added to this is the loss of zest of the vital mind which is a dealer in possi- 
bilities. It not only enjoys the actual but also is a hunter after unrealised 
possibilities and a builder of imaginary triumph. But being stamped with 
the characteristic inadequacy of the mental consciousness, the vital mind 
not only loses interest in its actual and fanciful triumphs but also comes 
to look upon everything as futile and ultimately meaningless. Vanity, 
vanity, all is vanity then becomes the burden of its song. To justify this 
aversion of the vital mind comes the thinking mind or the mind proper 
with its destructive philosophies and unmakes all sense of the reality of 
the world and that of life in it. The history of philosophy is an eloquent 
record of the uncertainly of the mind's attitude towards and valuation of 
the world and all that it means to us. There is no philosophy which has 
not been controverted or at least hotly contested, and no denial of a philo- 
sophy which in its turn has not been challenged. Realism, Idealism, Illu- 
sionism or Nihilism seem to be the steps of the progress of philosophy. 
But the wheel turns full circle and Realism asserts itself with a redoubled 


Sri Aurobindo says that the vital mind's aversion has no validity in itself, 
but the thinking mind's support of it has philosophical importance and 
needs to be examined carefully. When the thinking mind declares the 

* For the introductory instalment of this article, see Sri Aurobindo Mandir Annual 
1948, p. 51. 



world to be illusory, it not only asserts the proposition but builds a case 
which it supports by logical arguments and constructs a formidable philo- 
sophy of negation. 

The positive mind, however, cannot easily believe that the world is 
illusory. To convince it of the soundness of the theory, the analogy of 
the drearn is given to show that it is possible for the consciousness to have 
experience of things which really are not. The Illusionist theory does not 
say that the world is a dream but that it is like a dream just as waking 
proves dream to be unreal, so also the knowledge of reality shows the waking 
world to be unreal. But still the effect of this analogy is so devastating on 
the minds of men that we must carefully examine it and aslo see whether 
it applies to our world experience. 

One reason why dream is pronounced unreal is that it ceases and loses 
validity when we wake up from sleep. But Sri Aurobindo does not consider 
this a sufficient reason. All that it proves is that there are different states 
of consciousness each with its own realm of realities and the fact of passing 
from one state to another does not prove the unreality of the former. Dream 
objects are real to the dream consciousness, the normal waking world to 
the waking consciousness. So long as we are dreaming, the dream world 
is the real object of our experience; the fact that it vanishes when we wake 
up is normal and due to this that the consciousness necessary for its 
experience, the dream consciousness^ is no longer active. Thus the disappea- 
rance of dreams on waking up does not in the least touch their reality. 

Those familiar with the logic of vddha or negation of the Illusionist 
school of Vedanta will take exception to this. The argument is put forward 
that waking negates dream and thus renders it unreal. But from what we 
have said above, it should be clear that this argument confuses the real 
issue by forgetting that waking is a different state of consciousness from 
dream. Vddha or negation is exemplified in the celebrated snake-rope 
illustration but it should be remembered that in this case, the two expe- 
riences of the snake and the rope following each other belong to the same 
state of consciousness, namely, waking. Similarly, if in dream itself the 
snake were found to be a rope, that would be an example of negation. A 
'waking rope' does not negate a 'dream snake'. The logic of Vddha., there- 
fore, cannot be employed against Sri Aurobindo's doctrine that different 
states of consciousness have their own worlds of reality and the passing 
from one state to another does not in any way compromise the reality of 
the former. 

But another reason why dream is condemned as unreal is its evanescence; 
it has neither an antecedent nor a sequel. Also normally it lacks sufficient 



coheience and the waking being does not catch its significance. Our waking 
life, in spite of a few hours' sleepy interval, is coherent, each day taking 
up and continuing our world experience. But a particular night's dream 
has no connection with that of the previous night or that of the next, even 
dreams of the same night may not have any connection with each other. 
"There is, therefore," says Sri Aurobindo, "no analogy between dream and 
waking life; these are experiences quite different in their character, validity, 
order. 5 ' 1 

Our life too is charged with want of inner coherence and significance. 
But it will be evident that this charge is made by a superficial view of life. 
An inner and deeper view reveals a complete and connected significance. 
The real meaning of life is revealed to an understanding deeper than the 
normal. Also the apparent incoherence disappears before a knowledge 
from within and is felt to be due to a lack of coherence in our own 
seeing. Sri Aurobindo says life is a chain of firm sequences. Even if, as 
it is alleged, the sequence is not really there in life but is a mental delusion, 
the difference between dream and waking consciousness does not disappear. 
There is no such thing in dream as coherence given by an observing inner 
consciousness. The apparent sequence is an imitation of that of waking 
life. Besides our life is to some extent controlled by the waking conscious- 
ness which dream is not; "it has the nature-automatism of a subconscient 
construction and nothing of the conscious will and organising force of the 
evolved mind of the human being." 2 There is also no comparison between 
the evanescence of dream and of life; that of the former is radical and one 
dream has no relation with another, but that of life is of details only. The 
totality of world experience does not suifer from evanescence. While bodies 
perish, souls do not and are reincarnated; solar systems may disappear 
but the universe as such continues and may be a permanent existence, 
and life in it persists in spite of all kinds of disaster. The conclusion drawn 
from this is that between dream and waking experiences, the analogy is 
not valid and should not be used in serious philosophy. 

Sri Aurobindo himself, however, takes a different view of dream than 
the one described above. He does not believe that there is complete lack 
of coherence and significance in dream and be denies that it is totally unreal. 
In sleep it is only the waking activities that are suspended but the inner 
consciousness remains active. Of these activities we remember only those 
that take place in something that is nearer the surface mind. A subconscious 

1 "The Life Divine", Vol. II, part I, p. 192. 

2 ibid., p. 193. 



element remains there in sleep. It is both a passage of our dream expe- 
riences and also a dream-builder. Many of its dream creations are built 
upon circumstances taken from waking life both past and present, others 
seem to be merely fanciful. Sri Aurobindo pays a tribute to the method 
of psycho-analysis which "trying to look for the first time into our dreams 
with some kind of scientific understanding," 1 unravels their meaning to 
the waking consciousness. The interpretation of dream given by psycho- 
analysis may not be entirely correct, but "it begins to look as if there were 
something real behind it and as if too that something were an element of 
no mean practical importance." 2 

We have spoken of the subconscious both as a recorder of dreams and a 
dream builder. Its place is between the conscient and the inconscient. It 
is that part of our nature which borders on the inconscient; more properly 
it is the inconscient struggling into half-consciousness. It must be borne 
in mind that the subconscient is not the sub-mental, for Sri Aurobindo holds 
that the submental aspects of our nature, namely, the vital and the physi- 
cal, have an incipient consciousness of their own. Consciousness, according 
to him, is not dependent on mentality and mental reaction to things; com- 
pared to it, the mind is only a tiny bit. 3 "The true sub-conscious," says 
Sri Aurobindo, "is the Inconscient vibrating on the borders of conscious- 
ness, sending up its motions to be changed into conscious stuff, swallowing 
into its depths impressions of past experience as seeds of unconscious habit 
and returning them constantly but often chaotically to the surface con- 
sciousness, missioning upwards much futile or perilous stuff of which the 
origin is obscure to us, in dream, in mechanical repetitions of all kinds, 
in untraceable impulsions and motives, in mental, vital, physical pertur- 
bations and upheavals, in dumb automatic necessities of our obscurest 
parts of nature." 4 

Now in sleep, the physical part of us, a formation of the inconscient, 
sinks back to its origin through the subconscious transcriber of dreams. 
"There it finds the impressions of its past or persistent habits of mind and 
experiences, for all have left their mark on our sub-conscious part and 
there a power of recurrence." 5 This phenomenon of recurrence as it takes 
place in sleep seerns to be fanciful and the waking intelligence cannot 

V "The Life Divine," p. 195. 

8 See the letters entitled "Consciousness" and The Physical "Consciousness" in 
Letters of Sri Aurobindo. 

4 "The Life Divine", Vol II, part I, p. 403-4- 

5 ibid., p. 195. The subconscious in this respect corresponds to the china of 

Patanjali's Yoga-Philosophy. 



grasp its sense. When the subconscious activity sinks completely into the 
inconscient, we name that state dreamless sleep. But in fact this is a deeper 
layer of the subconscious ao.d here too the dream activity continues though 
the recording layer fails to retain any of its impressions. 

There is another aspect of our nature which also is a behind-the-veil 
entity and which Sri Aurobindo has called the subliminal. Of this also 
our waking intelligence has no awareness, In itself, however, "it is in full 
possession of a mind, a lifc-force., a clear subtle-physical sense of things. 
It has the same capacities as our waking being;, a subtle sense and percep- 
tion, a comprehensive extended memory and an intensive selecting intelli- 
gence, will, self-consciousness; but even though the same in kind, these are 
wider, more developed, more sovereign. And it has other capacities which 
exceed those of our mortal mind, because of a power of direct awareness of 
the being, whether acting in itself or turned towards its object, which arrives 
more swiftly at knowledge, more swiftly at effectivity of will, more deeply 
at understanding and satisfaction of impulse". We have given this rather 
long quotation because we find here noted the broad characteristics and 
capacities of the subliminal, a clear idea of which is essential for an under- 
standing of Sri Aurobindo's doctrine of dream. It has both an inner and 
upward extension and consequently has contacts with both the occult 
and the spiritual. From the former emerge in our experience what may 
be called the more than normal, from the latter what may be called the 
supernormal or the genuinely spiritual, both emerging through the subli- 
minal, our gateway to these realities. 

Now in dreamless sleep, we either go into the deeper layer of the sub- 
conscious from where no intimation of its structures comes, or into the 
inner chambers of our being, the subliminal mental, the subliminal vital, 
the subtle-physical and lose almost all connection with our surface intelli- 
gence. There may be some recording by the surface subconscious layer 
of our experiences of these regions of our being if they are nearer our surface 
being. The reason why we do not understand this record is that it is in 
the subconscient's own transcription to which our waking mind has no 
key. But there is a plunge still deeper where the record fails and produces 
the illusion of dreamlessness. A growth of the inward consciousness 
however reveals continuance of dream activity even there. And the dreams 
of the subliminal become "a series of thoughts, often strangely or vividly 
figured, problems are solved which our waking consciousness could not 
solve, warnings, premonitions, indications of the future, veridical dreams 
replace the subconscious incoherence." 1 Sri Aurobindo even recognises 
1 "The Life Divine", p. 197. 



the possibility of full consciousness in sleep and of following the progress 
of our dreams from beginning to end. We pass from state to state, from 
one state of consciousness to another to the deepest or the highest level 
and come back to the surface. In the course of the return the experiences 
slip away from us but with a proper training and growth of consciousness, 
a coherent knowledge and retention in our surface memory of these dreams 
though difficult is not impossible. We remember the dreams that are 
thrown up by the subconscious but the dreams of the subliminal also may 
impress our sleep consciousness in such a way that they are retained by 
our waking memory. When that happens dreams assume reality and a 

Sri Aurobindo also makes out that the subliminal is in direct touch with 
supraphysical realities and the other planes of our being. Our entry into 
the subliminal enables us to make contact with them. This entry is possible 
both in sleep and trance which, like sleep, is also a withdrawal of conscious- 
ness from its external field. For those who are not trained in the necessary 
yogic discipline and cannot enter into trance, sleep is a normal passage to the 
subliminal. The experiences of the subliminal are also figured in dreams. 
In fact, the Upanishad calls the subliminal the Dream Self who has "inner 
intelligence and enjoys things subtle." 1 Thus we see that the dream activity 
is very extensive and can be traced back to what is called dreamless sleep 
state, to what Sri Aurobindo calls the super-conscient and the Upanishad 
the Sleep Self or the sushuptam* because "normally all mental and sensory 
experience cease when we enter this super-conscience". 3 The touch of 
the superconscience mikes the normal mind almost inactive. That is why 
the surface being cannot retain consciousness of contacts with it; but even 
here it is not altogether impossible for the surface being to hold something 
of these extraordinary contacts. It can be done "by an especial and unusual 
development, in a supernormal condition or through a break or rift in our 
confined normality." 4 

Admittedly this unusual development is the result of an outbursi 
of our now-secret faculties. But the fact that the kind of retention referred 
to above is a result of a special training of the normally undeveloped faculties 
of a new combination of the forces of subjective being and the discover] 
of its latent states, should not make it suspect. Let us remember the simpl< 
definition Sri Aurobindo has given of Yoga: it is the science of the subjectiv< 

V "Mandukya Upanishad", verses 4 and 5. 

3 "The Life Divine", Vol. II, part I, p. 201. 

4 ibid., p. 202. 



forces just as physics and other natural sciences are a study of the forces 
of objective nature. Let us also remember that he never tires of pleading 
for serious consideration of the deeper experiences of our subjective being. 
After all experience is our main gateway to reality and yogic experiences 
should not be an anathema to the metaphysician because they are unusual 
to our consciousness as normally organised in us. All spiritual philosophies 
in India have taken due account of these deeper subjective experiences; 
we may even say that a systematic study of these has been made the very 
basis of metaphysical construction in India. What is new in Sri Aurobindo 
is his insistence on the possibility of living in all the states of being simul- 
taneously and the holding of these strata of consciousness and their respective 
worlds in a single act of knowledge. A hint at this possibility is already 
contained in the Upanishad but it is in the philosophy of Sri Aurobindo that 
we find the hint worked out fully for the first time. Indeed the very aim of 
the Integral Yoga is so to transform the outer consciousness as to enable it 
to be aware of its deeper and higher levels normally and not through any 
special effort like trance etc. This gives an entirely novel, revolutionary 
and harmonic view of our experience of the gross (jdgaritasthdna\ subtle 
(svapnasthdna) and the bliss worlds (suslmptam> dnandabhuk). 1 The 
unbroken continuity of conscious existence and its activity in the three 
worlds is revealed and their connection with Turiya, the fourth firmly 

The Mandukya Upanishad starts with saying that the mystic seed-sound 
AUM is all. It is what has been, what is and what will be, and what is 
beyond the 'three times'. 2 Then the Upanishad goes on to say that all this is 
Brahman, the Self i s Brahman and that the Self is fourfold or has four 
parts. It proceeds to define the four parts which are waking, dream, sleep 
and the fourth, the incommunicable, non-dual Self. It is further asserted 
that AUM is the Self and that AUM also exists as mdtrd or measure. 
The three Matras of AUM are again waking, dream and sleep and 
the incommunicable fourth is Amdtra, or transcendent of mdtrd., the 
Beyond-measure. But that also is the AUM just as in the previous 
description the fourth also was the Self. It is clear from the 
above that the Three or the three mdtrds, namely, waking, dream 
and sleep are also the Self, the Brahman, and the intention of the Upa- 
nishad is that they are not unreal. It is conceded that a very strict logic 
may say that the fourth alone is real. But it may be held with equal 

1 "Mandukya Upanishad", verses 3-5. 

2 ibid., i. 



justification that while the Turiya or the Amdtra, the fourth or the Beyond- 
measure is the basic status of reality, the others are its self variations. Other- 
wise, the Upanishad would not have described all the four as parts of the 
Self. The logic of experience transcends the logic of the thinking mind. 
The dialectic of spiritual consciousness outstrips the steps of analytic thought. 
And Sri Aurobindo, following the logic of experience, considers jdgrat, 
svapna and sushupti as worlds of reality, not of illusion. The result is the 
restoration of a concrete sense of reality of all the three worlds and this 
sense of reality proves to the hilt the inapplicability of the dream analogy 
to our normal waking world experience. 

The reader may wonder why the activities in the deeper states of our 
being should be called dream. He may wonder because his view of dream 
is very limited and he is accustomed to look upon it as a mental process 
dependent on our waking experiences. But Sri Aurobindo's analysis shows 
that what we call dream in common parlance is really and originally an 
activity of the deeper recesses of our subjective being. Dream originates 
in the subliminal and its annexe, the subconscious or even in the super- 
conscience. That dream is not entirely dependent on waking experiences 
is proved by the fact that people have been known to dream of things to 
which nothing in their waking experience corresponded or which proved 
true later in their life; in other words, waking experience has corresponded 
with and confirmed the dream experience. 1 It should also be remembered 
that the authors of the Upanishads following the practice of the Vedic 
seers, used the terms of our daily life even for things which are quite 
extraordinary and beyond the range of normal experience. Their method of 
knowledge was intuitive and their use of language symbolical. Words 
ordinarily used for normal things were employed to indicate supernormal 
things. The practice leads us to a misreading of their minds but the ancients, 
who were familiar with their methods of knowledge and the manner of their 

1 Biographies of Yogis and books on 'psychical' research are full of records 
of this kind of dreams, and it is not necessary to make any detailed reference 
to them here. But I would like to record what a great Sanskrit scholar a savant 
and a sadhak told me in Benares about a couple of years ago. I was discussing this 
particular topic with him and he related this personal experience to me. In his bcyhood 
once he dreamed of a visit to a place which was a wasteland. For a number of years 
with intervals, he dreamed of revisits to the same place which became a plot of land 
on which a house was being built. With the passage of years the building of the house 
progressed and several years after the first dream, the building was completed in a 
final dream. What is pertinent about this dream progressing over a number of years to 
a legitimate finish, is that the dreamer actually had in his life a house built for himself 
similar to the one seen in the 'serial' dream. 



language, knew their intended significances all right. Obviously these 
names waking, dream and sleep are figurative. 

We have already said that nowhere in the Upanishad it is laid down that 
these three states are unreal. On the contrary, they are described as parts 
of the self-same Brahman which is fourfold. An identity which self-varies 
itself into four states is the concept of Brahman presented by the Upanishad. 
Sri Aurobindo concedes that the first three states may be regarded as illu- 
sion, the sole reality being the fourth, the absolute supercoascience. But 
he argues that "it is equally possible to regard and rank them together as 
three different orders of one Reality or as three states of consciousness in 
which is embodied our contact with three different grades of self-experience 
and world-experience". 1 In the last analysis the two would mean the same 
thing. For according to Sri Aurobindo, it is really the Reality that knows 
in and through us its self-objectifications. From the side of Brahman, 
susupti is the causal-bliss world which evolves into svapna or the subtle 
world of which jagrat or the waking world is the gross evolution. The 
individual lives normally in the last. But to realise its own secret reality, 
it has to reach the Fourth through the other two which are its own states. 
As the individual enters the deeper and the higher states, he realises them 
as orders of cosmic existence and not merely as states of his own conscious- 

The above analysis of dream makes it clear that is it not an unreal figure 
of unreal things. Its analogy, therefore, as an illustrative support of the 
illusionist theory is not valid. The objection may be raised that dream though 
a transcript of real things, is not itself real and that similarly our waking 
life is also a collection of symbols or images and not itself real. They try 
to figure something that may be real but the figures that they make are not 
true representations of that. Students of western philosophy will be 
reminded of Representationism. The difficulty in that theory is the lack of 
connection between the image and the imaged. We can, however, 
answer by saying that even though dream and for the matter of that, our 
waking experience, were a symbol, it was the symbol of something. It is 
not a baseless construction and is grounded on the real. Besides we have 
an intuition which immediately and adequately relates the image with the 
imaged, the symbol with the symbolised. Intuition is a direct perception 
of reality which "gives us a touch of things. 5 ' It is, according to Sri 
Aurobindo, active in all our knowledge processes. Intuition is not the highest 
knowledge, because though there is no interdiction between it and reality, 

1 "The Life Divine'", p. 202. 




the level of consciousness in and through which it works makes its function 
limited. In other words, it is coated by our mentality, vitality and physicality. 
Thus though a flash of intuition puts us in direct contact with reality, its 
mixture with and expression through the natural parts of our being render 
it open to error or mistaken stress. Reason comes in to systematise our 
intuitions and correct their errors. The adequacy of the relation established 
by intuition between the image and the imaged, between the knower and 
the known, is amplified by an illumined reason which observes and corrects 
the errors of our sense-transcripts in which also, as has been said, intuition 
works. Thus in spite of errors ou knowledge is substantially, correct. In 
a sense all our knowledge is symbolirc and of the nature of image, because 
it is never completely exhaustive of reality and is a partial expression of 
it. Yet the symbol is a symbol of something objective; the image though 
not fully adequate is of some reality and not of illusion. In the illusionist 
theory, however, there is nothing to image, nothing to transcribe^ nothing 
that could be expressed through symbols. For in that theory reality is a 
pure indeterminable, nirvesesha, for ever void of self-determinations, and 
perfectly incommunicable, avyavahdryam. Neither waking nor dream 
experience can image That because That is indescribable and ineffable. 

Thus the dream analogy fails us completely and though useful as a vivid 
metaphor and as expressing a particular attitude towards life, it has no 
place in any worthy metaphysical enquiry. 


Sri Aurobindo and Plato 


"VP7HITEHEAD has said in a passage in his book Process and Reality 
that "the safest general characterization of European philosophical 
tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato". This clearly 
proves the importance of Plato's philosophy as the source of all European 
philosophy. Although 1 am not in a position to accept this view in its en- 
tirety inasmuch as there are other factors than Plato's philosophy which 
have been responsible for the development of European philosophy, such 
as the influence of the Christian Church, the impact of the advance of 
science upon the entire cultural life of Europe, etc., yet it is undoubtedly 
true that one of the main formative elements in European philosophy is 
furnished by Platonism. 

Another reason and that is more or less a personal one why I have 
chosen Plato as a representative European philosopher with whom to com- 
pare Sri Aurobindo is that having dealt with the relation of Sri Aurobindo 
to Nikolai Hartmann and Plotinus, I felt that it was incumbent upon me 
to deal with the source from which these philosophers drew their inspiration. 
In any case, the series of comparative studies which I have made in succes- 
sive numbers of this Annual, in which I have tried to show how Sri Auro- 
bindo's philosophy stands in relation to representative Western thinkers, 
cannot be said to be complete without bringing it into relation with the 
philosophy of Plato. 



To understand Plato, it is necessary to have a clear idea of the spirit 
of Greek philosophy, of which Plato represents the optimum development, 



The Greek spirit was one of free inquiry, unfettered by tradition or dogma. 
The Greek mind first looked outwards, towards Nature, and tried to find 
therein some principle which could explain the entire phenomena of Nature. 
Thales, universally regarded as the founder of Greek philosophy, found 
such a principle in water. Other members of his school, known as the 
Ionian school, took some other natural principle, such as air, as the funda- 
mental one. A change was made by Anaximander who took a more abstract 
principle, namely, the Boundless, as the starting-point of his philosophy. 

Greek philosophy thus far was synonymous with natural speculation, 
though Anaximander gave it a tun? which took it into the realm of abstract 
speculation. From now onwards Greek philosophy became more and more 
fond of abstractions. This tendency reached its climax in two philosophers, 
Parmenides and Heraclitus, who although they differed fundamentally 
about the nature of the ultimate principle, one looking upon it as Being and 
the other as Becoming, yet made the ultimate principle the most abstract 
one that could be conceived. This process of abstract speculation conti- 
nued in Pythagoras., who looked upon Number, as the symbol of measure 
and proportion, as the ultimate principle. But in Pythagoras Greek philo- 
sophy had its first touch of mysticism, which it acquired partly from the 
followers of the Orphic cult and partly from its contact with Eastern, spe- 
cially Indian, philosophy, for there can be no doubt that Pythagoras was 
greatly influenced by Buddhism and other Indian trends of thought. How 
important this fact is for understanding Plato we shall see presently. 

After Pythagoras there was a reversion to the concrete, and in Empe- 
docles, Anaxagoras and the Atomists, Greek philosophy returned to the 
original concrete standpoint of the early lonians, with this very important 
difference, that it no longer regarded the ultimate principle as one but as 
many. Greek philosophy, in fact 5 in this period was caught in a wave of 
pluralism. But Anaxagoras, although he was essentially an atomist, yet 
introduced a principle fundamentally different from any that Greek philo- 
sophy had so far conceived and which was of far-reaching importance for 
the subsequent development of that philosophy. This was the principle 
of Nous or Mind which was totally unknown to Greek philosophy before 
him. It is true he could not make full use of this principle and it was only 
externally connected with the rest of his philosophy. In fact, it was in search 
of a principle that could explain motion, that he hit upon Nous. To the 
end it remained in his philosophy a deus ex machina. 

In fact, the credit of turning the centre of gravity of philosophy from 
Nature to Mind or Consciousness goes to Protagoras, rather than to Anaxa- 
goras. It was Protagoras who, with his doctrine Man is the measure of all 



things, made a revolutionary change in the outlook of Greek philosophy, 
which had hitherto been more or less a sort of natural speculation. By 
making man the centre of philosophical interest, he turned the gaze of 
philosophy from outside within. Henceforth Greek philosophy never 
departed from this fundamental standpoint. From now on, man and his 
problems came to occupy the centre of Greek philosophy. 

But Protagoras had a very poor conception of the nature of man. Man 
for him meant only the sensuous man, that part of man which expresses 
itself only in sensations and perceptions. Thus, although Protagoras was 
the author of the revolutionary change which gave Greek philosophy its 
characteristic note which it preserved till the end, yet he was also responsible 
for the most extreme form of subjectivism which acknowledged the reality 
of only the individual man's particular sensations and perceptions. 

A second revolution therefore was necessary, and this was led by Socrates. 
He pointed out that it was only the universal element in man represented 
by his reason or intellect, that could be placed in the centre of philosophical 
interest. This, of course, gave an altogether new turn to Protagoras' homo 
mensura doctrine, and intellect or reason came to occupy the place which 
Protagoras had assigned to sensation and perception. Philosophy thus 
became in the hands of Socrates the science of the universal as discovered 
by human reason. 

Plato as the true disciple of Socrates inherited this universalistic bias 
of his master, but he inherited along with it the tendencies of the previous 
philosophers, especially, the mysticism and love for number and measure 
of the Pythagorean and the fondness for the natural philosophy of the 
lonians. Thus Plato became the complete Greek, uniting in himself the 
main tendencies of all the previous Greek thinkers. This no doubt accounts 
for his many-sidedness, but it also accounts for the fact why it was so diffi- 
cult for him to maintain a consistent philosophical standpoint throughout, 
being swayed alternately by the different tendencies. On the whole he 
followed the Socratic principle of reason, but it would be doing injustice 
to him if we were to treat him merely as a Socratic and ignore the Pytha- 
gorean and other elements in him. This, in fact, is the charm of Plato, the 
wonderful many-sidedness of his genius and even his failures the gaps 
in his philosophy are not without a charm of their own. 


Plato's philosophy, thus, is extraordinarily many-sided, and even the 
enumeration of all its different features would take a good deal of space. 



In the short space at our disposal, therefore, we shall deal only with some 
of its main features. These, excluding from our consideration those which 
relate to his political philosophy (for we are not directly concerned with 
them), may be put under the following four heads: (i) his theory of ideas, 
(2) his theory of creation, (3) his conception of God, and (4) the idea of good. 
I will deal briefly with each of them in the following pages. 


The most important feature of Plato's philosophy is undoubtedly his 
doctrine of ideas. The ideas of Plato are Universals, which alone are the 
ultimate realities for him. They are realities which are beyond sense and 
which are perceived by the mind alone when it is freed from the disturbing 
element of the body. They are unchangeable and invisible, and it is by 
participation in them that things are what they are. For instance, the beauti- 
ful is beautiful because it participates in the idea of beauty, the just is just 
because it participates in the idea of justice, and so on. 

Whitehead believes that the ideas of Plato are the same as his (White- 
head's) "eternal objects", which he calls the Pure Potentials. But in Plato's 
view they are the ultimate realities and cannot be treated as potentials. 
It is not that they become real when they are actualized in the world of 
experience. But the world of experience has to show its credentials to them 
and is real precisely to the extent to which it succeeds in doing so. The 
'actual entities' of Whitehead, in relation to which he calls the ideas pure 
potentials, are, from Plato's point of view, very poor stuff, as compared 
with them. Plato does not attach much importance to what we call the 
'realization' or 'actualization' of the ideas. They do actualize themselves 
partly or fully in our world of experience, but whether they do so or not, 
they remain the ultimate realities. The reality of what Whitehead calls 
'the actual entities' is in Plato's view far inferior to that of the ideas, Hart- 
mann is right when he calls the ideas values, but he deviates from Plato 
when he attaches so much importance to the 'realization* of the ideas. In 
fact, he even goes further than Whitehead, for he calls ideas or values non- 
real. This, as I have explained in my article Sri Aurobindo and Nikolai 
Hartmann (Path Mandir Annual, 1945), ^ of course the height of absurdity, 
for if the values have no reality, how can they be called values? 

How the world of experience or the world of finite objects participates 
in the ideas, Plato has not shown beyond pointing out that the world is 
a creation of God who creates it after the pattern of the ideas. This^ of 
course, leaves a number of problems unsolved, as pointed out in the dia- 



logue Parmenides. Tb's dialogue also points out other difficulties in the 
theory of ideas. 

Burnet in his "Platonism" holds the view that the theory of ideas is not 
Platonic but Socratic. Now this, we may venture to point out, is a historical 
question, and does not concern us here. Even if it can be proved conclu- 
sively (as it cannot) that Plato did not hold the theory of ideas but faith- 
fully reproduced it in his dialogues as he heard it from his master's lips, 
even then we shall be justified in including it in our account of his philo- 
sophy, for what we mean by Plato's philosophy is the philosophy that is 
presented in the dialogues. Plato never mentioned in the Dialogues what 
his own views were. What the historical Plato's views were, it is for the 
historian to find out. For us Plato's views mean what is presented in the 

The chief defect to our mind of Plato's theory of ideas is his view of 
them as static, devoid of all power of self-generation or creation. Another 
great defect is his failure to bring any unity or order into the system of 
ideas. The ideas are nothing but spiritual atoms or monads, without any 
connection among themselves. Only, in the Republic, he gives one idea, 
namely, the idea of good, the supreme place, but he expressly mentions 
that this idea is fundamentally different from the others. His calling it 
therefore the supreme idea does not help us in our problem, which is to 
arrange the ideas in a hierarchical order. 


I come now to Plato's theory of Creation. How does the world of plural 
beings come into existence? The problem of Creation has been in fact 
the stumbling-block in Greek philosophy. Anaxagoras solved it by postu- 
lating the existence of the Soul or Nous which, being not of the nature of 
material objects, could impart motion to them. Parmenides cut the Gordian 
knot by saying that there is no creation at all, for there is only the one im- 
movable eternal Being. The difficulty is also one which we meet with in 
Plato, for, like Parmenides and unlike Heraclitus, he also takes his ideas 
to be without any power of becoming or generation. Unlike Parmenides, 
however, Plato does not deny creation but assumes the existence of a second 
principle outside of the ideas but dependent upon them for the plan or 
scheme of creation. This second principle Plato calls God or the Creator. 
Below I give an account of creation as it is described in the "Timaeus". 

"Tim. Is the world created or uncreated? that is the first question. 
Created, I reply, being visible and tangible and having a body, and therefore 



sensible, and if sensible, then created, "and if created, made by a cause, 
and that cause is the ineffable father of all things, who had before him an 
eternal archetype (italics mine). For to imagine that the archetype was created, 
would be blasphemy, seeing that the world is the noblest of creatures and 
God is the best of causes. And the world being thus created according to 
the eternal pattern is the copy of something, and we may assume that words 
are akin to the matter of what they speak. 

Sim. Excellent, Timaeus. I like your manner of approaching the subject, 

Tim. Why did the Creator create the world? He was good and therefore 
not jealous, and being free from jealousy, he desired that all things should 
be like himself." 1 

There are various difficulties which arise in connection with this des- 
cription of Creation. The most fundamental one, as Jowett points out, is 
this: In what relation does the archetype stand to the Creator himself? 
since the idea or pattern of the world is not the thought of God, but a se- 
parate, self-existent nature, of which creation is the copy. Jowett gives 
his own reply to this question as follows: "We can only reply, (i) that to 
the mind of Plato subject and object were not yet distinguished; (2) that 
he supposes the process of creation to take place in accordance with his 
own theory of ideas; and as we cannot give a consistent account of the one, 
neither can we of the other. He means (3) to say that the creation of the 
world is not a material process of working with legs and arms but ideal 
and intellectual; according to his ov/n fine expression, "the thought of 
God made the God that was to be". He means (4) to draw an absolute 
distinction between the invisible or unchangeable which is or is the place 
of mind or being, and the world of sense or becoming which is visible or 
changing. He means (5) that the idea of the world is prior to the world, 
just as the other ideas are prior to sensible objects; and like them may be 
regarded as eternal and self-existent, and also, like the idea of good, may 
be viewed apart from the divine mind." 

The chief thing which we are to notice in connection with this answer 
of Jowett's is that creation, according to Plato, is not a material process, 
not a matter of hands and feet, but is mainly ideal and intellectual. Be- 
cause it is so, therefore, Plato speaks of the idea of creation existing prior 
to creation. He even goes so far as to say that the idea of God creates the 
God that is to be. Of course, the latter statement becomes unintelligible 
if God is to be looked upon as the Ultimate Reality. But evidently, that 

1 "Timaeus", 29-32, (Jowett's translation.) 



position is reserved for the ideas, and therefore, God must be content with 
the position of being a penultimate and not the ultimate reality. 

There are various other difficulties in connection with the theory of 
creation as given in the "Timaeus" and evidently Jowett is not quite sure 
whether a solution of them is at all possible. That is why he says, "We 
must reply again that we cannot follow Plato in all his inconsistencies, but 
that the gaps of thought are probably more apparent to us than to him. 
He would perhaps have said that "the first things are known only to God 
and to him of men whom God loves." 

These words are as clear an admission as possible that there are incon- 
sistencies in Plato's philosophy which it is impossible to explain away. 
To our mind the main inconsistency' lies in having a double set of creators 
the ideas which are the ultimate creators and God. God evidently has 
not got the power to create without getting the patterns from the ideas, 
and the ideas cannot also create directly because they have no power of 

One difficulty which has exercised the minds of most Greek scholars 
is this: Does Plato believe in creation out of nothing, or does he assume 
the prior existence of matter in a chaotic state prior to creation? There 
are some passages in the "Timaeus" where Plato speaks of the elements 
as moving in a disorderly manner before the work of creation starts. Jowett 
thinks that Plato does not attach much importance to this question. "The 
real creation began", he says, "not with matter but with ideas". It is the 
latter creation that Plato has in mind. Taylor is definitely of opinion that 
it is wrong to suppose that, according to Plato, there was a pre-existent 
chaos before the work of creation started. "If we look at the text of the 
"Tirnaeus", he says, "we shall see that at any rate Plato does not mean to 
say that there ever was a time before God constructed the world, since he 
tells us, as Aristotle allows, that time and the world 'began' together, God 
in fact making both of them. Thus the language which seems to imply a 
primitive state of pure chaos cannot be meant seriously" (Plato, the Man 
and His Work, p. 443). 

There are other questions which arise in connection with Plato's des- 
cription of Creation in the "Timaeus". Does the entire creation of mortal 
and immortal beings proceed from God, or does the former only proceed 
from Him? Plato definitely says that God created only immortal beings, 
the creation of mortal beings being delegated by Him to inferior powers. 
And the reason which Plato gives for this is that whatever is created by 
God is created in His image, and therefore if the world of mortal beings 
were created by Him, that world would be like the world of gods. Conse- 



quently, that world cannot be created by Him. This means that Plato 
does not want to hold God responsible for evil. 

The world of mortal beings, including the world of man, is thus removed 
from the sphere of God's creation. This gives man a very inferior position. 
Man, in fact, is relegated to the background, the foreground being occupied 
by Nature and the gods. This constitutes, as we shall presently see, one 
of the main differences between Plato and Sri Aurobindo. 

The seriousness of this disparagement of man in the "Timaeus" is to 
a great extent toned down by the fact that the "Timaeus" does not occupy 
the centre of Plato's system. As Jowett says, "A greater danger with 
modern interpreters of Plato is the tendency to regard the Timaeus as the 
centre of his system. We do not know how Plato would have arranged his 
own dialogues. But if he had arranged them, there are many indications 
that this is not the place he would have assigned to the Timaeus. We 
observe, first of all, that the dialogue is put in the mouth of a Pythagorean 
philosopher, and not of Socrates. And this is required by dramatic pro- 
priety, for the investigation of nature was expressly renounced by Socrates 
in the Phaedo. Nor does Plato himself attribute any importance to his 
guesses at science. He is not at all absorbed by them as he is by the idea 
of good". He goes on: "We are led to regard the Timaeus, not as the centre 
or inmost shrine of the edifice, but as a detached building in a different 
style, framed, not after the Socratic, but after some Pythagorean model". 
This being so, not much importance is to be attached to the views expressed 
in this dialogue. 

It must not be supposed, however, that it has not much philosophical 
value. Apart from the fact that creation is a fundamental philosophical 
problem, the manner in which the doctrine of ideas is presented in this 
dialogue is of considerable philosophical significance. It brings out the 
strength, as \vell as the weakness of the doctrine of ideas. Its strength 
lies in the fact that it treats the ideas or values as the central realities, in 
terms" of which all other realities have to be expressed, whereas its weakness 
consists in the circumstance that it shows no way, except by a sort of tour 
de force, in which the ideas can be brought into contact with the world of 
human experience. As I shall show in the sequel, this constitutes another fun- 
damental difference between Plato's philosophy and that of Sri Aurobindo. 


I now come to Plato's conception of God which I have dealt with inci- 
dentally in connection with the previous topic, for the problem of creation 



cannot be dissociated from that of God. The main question for us to 
consider is this: Is the God of Plato an idea? We have seen that at least 
in the "Timaeus" He is not, for God is conceived as creating in accordance 
with a pattern which is fixed by the ideas. The ideas, moreover, are immo- 
bile, and have no power of creation or generation. Taylor in his Plato, 
the Man and His Work strongly emphasizes the fact that the God of the 
"Timaeus" is not a form but a soul. He says, "God and the forms are to 
be kept distinct in Plato for the simple reason that the activity of God in 
producing a world "like" the forms is the one explanation Plato ever oifers 
of the way in which the "participation" of things in forms is effected. If 
God simply meant the same thing as the forms or a supreme form, it should 
remain a mystery why there should be anydiiag but the forms, why there 
should be any becoming at all" (p. 442). Thus what the "Timaeus" 
offers us is the theistic conception of a personal God creating the world 
according to a design. 

But there is another question which arises in connection with the nature 
of God; and that is the question that if God is not an idea, is He not sub- 
ordinate to it? There is no doubt that for Plato the ideas are the ultimate 
realities, and if God is not an idea, then certainly He cannot be regarded 
as the ultimate reality, whatever power He nay possess of creating things. 
In fact, tiie position of God here is very similar to that of Evara in our 
Vedanta systems. If the ideas are static beings, so also is Brahrnan of the 
Advaita Vedanta, and if Isvara is the active, creative principle, it becomes 
so by shedding some of its reality, by becoming mdydsavala or mdydvisista, 
exactly as the God of Plato becomes. 

But there is one inherent contradiction in this conception of God, Plato 
has distinctly stated in the "Timaeus" that God created the world because 
He was good and free from jealousy. But if God is not an idea, how can 
He be said to be perfectly good? Again, in one passage in the "Parmenides" 
(Parm. 1340) God alone is said to have absolute knowledge. Similarly, 
in a passage in the "Theaetetus", He is said to be absolute righteousness. 
Now how can God be absolutely righteous or absolutely good or have 
absolute knowledge, unless He is the same as the idea of righteousness or 
goodness or absolute knowledge? In this respect our Vedanta systems are 
more logical. They distinctly admit that there is imperfection in Isvara 
on account of the presence of Maya. The matter acquires greater impor- 
tance from the fact that Plato is very particular about the puriy of the world 
that God creates. In all that God creates directly, namely, the worlds of 
immortal beings, there is absolutely no blemish of any kind. Not only so, 
but because in the world of mortal beings, to which man belongs, there 



is evil, therefore, Plato expressly declares that God does not create it but 
leaves the creation of it to inferior powers. This clearly proves that for 
Plato not only is God Himself completely free from any imperfection, 
but anything that He creates is likewise also completely free from im- 
perfection. And yet he maintains that God is not an idea but a soul. There 
are, however, some passages in the Dialogues (as, for instance, "Republic" 
X -597 C ) where Plato calls God the creator of ideas. In the passage of the 
Republic mentioned above, God is spoken of as the maker of the ideal bed, 
which is nothing else than the idea of the bed. Plato evidently oscillates 
here between two conceptions of God God as a Creator who can create 
only after the pattern of the ideas, and God as the originator of the ideas. 
The logic of the theory of ideas requires that the ideas should maintain 
their supremacy and that even God should be made subordinate to them, 
but Plato's philosophical insight seemed to revolt against this and hence 
the oscillation, which is the first sign in him of a conflict between intuition 
and reason. Plato remained to the end true to the Greek spirit and never 
deserted the path of reason. No Greek philosopher of any eminence ever 
did so. Even Heraclitus, perhaps the most mystical among Greek philo- 
sophers, did not, as Sri Aurobindo has pointed out in his brilliant mono- 
graph on this philosopher. But Plato did not also want to leave the guidance 
of intuition, and hence the conflict. This conflict deepened in his con- 
ception of the idea of good, to which I now pass. 


In the Republic Plato has given us a conception of the idea of good, which 
is so far above the other ideas dealt with in the Dialogues, that it has proved 
a puzzle to Greek scholars. Here we see the advantage which a philosopher 
has over his interpreters. The philosopher gets an intuition of truth, like 
the* poet, and notes it down. How he arrives at it, he does not know. If 
asked to show the logical steps by which that truth can be reached, he 
will in most cases fail, for he did not reach it by any logical process. You 
excuse that in a philosopher, but you do not excuse it in an interpreter. 
He must show the logical process which leads up to these peaks of intuition, 
or he is no good as an interpreter. Now the difficulty about the idea of 
good is that it is an idea and yet not an idea. It is so much more significant, 
so much more universal and yet so much more concrete than all the other 
ideas, that it looks more like a towering peak rising precipitously from the 
valley of the ideas than any continuation of it. The following passage from 
the "Republic" will give an idea of what the nature of it is: 



Soc. Now that which imparts truth to the known and the power of 
knowing to the knower is what I would have you term the idea of good, 
and this you will deem to be the cause of science and of truth in so far as 
the latter becomes the subject of knowledge; beautiful too, as are both 
truth and knowledge, you will be right in esteeming this other nature as 
more beautiful than either; and, as in the previous instance, light and sight 
may be truly said to be like the sun, and yet not to be the sun, so in this 
other sphere, science and truth may be deemed to be like the good, but 
not the good; the good has a place of honour much higher. What a wonder 
of beauty that must be, which is the author of science and truth, and yet 
surpasses them in beauty; for you surely cannot mean to say that pleasure 
is the good? 1 

Plato further explains (through the mouth of Socrates) that although 
the good may be said to be not only the author of knowledge of all things 
known, but of their being and essence, yet the good is not essence but far 
exceeds essence in dignity and power. 

From this account of the idea of good, there is no doubt that it represents 
Plato's highest conception of reality. This is clear from liis description of 
it as "the author of science and truth, and yet surpasses them in beauty". 
There are certain characteristics of it which deserve careful consideration, 
In the first place, as its name "idea of good' suggests, it is to be looked 
upon as a value and not merely as an existent. But it is not a mere ethical 
value but something much more universal than that, something in which 
the ethical value is merged as a smaller whole into a greater whole. No 
greater mistake can, I think, be committed than to regard it as an ethical 
value. It is a metaphysical value. Its being termed good only draws our 
attention to the fact that it is not a mere being in the sense of a mere exi- 
tent; nor is it merely an essence, understanding by essence a logical essence. 
But it is the ultimate metaphysical value. It is something which, in the 
language of the Gttd, may be described as that "by obtaining which, no 
other gain is deemed higher". We have, in fact, here one of the clearest 
and strongest affirmations of the philosophy of values ever found in philo- 
sophical literature. 

It is a trite remark that Plato here breaks his attitude of neutrality to- 
wards the different ideas. Plato does here something so very revolutionary 
that to describe it as merely doing this is saying nothing. It would, more- 
over> give a wrong idea of the change brought about by this new idea. It 

1 "Republic," 6, 509, Jowett's translation. 



is not that Plato picks up here one idea from the list of ideas and gives it 
a pre-eminent position, but this idea was not present in his previous scheme 
of ideas. It is an altogether new idea, the like of which did not exist in 
his theory of ideas. Giving the topmost rank to this new idea, not existing 
before in his scheme of ideas, does not mean abandoning his attitude of 
neutrality towards the other ideas. So far as the ideas of which he treated 
before are concerned, his attitude remains as neutral as before. What really 
happens after the introduction of the idea of good is that the old theory of 
ideas is scrapped, scrapped except in name. 

Taylor in his book Plato., the Man and His Work (pp. 288-89), has dis- 
cussed the question whether the idea of good can be identified with God. 
I will give his views in his own words. He says, "We cannot answer this 
question correctly except by making a distinctio sometimes forgotten. If 
the question means "is the Form of Good another name for the God recog- 
nized in the Platonic philosophy"?", the answer must be definitely No 5 for 
the reason given by Burnet, that the good is a forni^ whereas God is not 
a form but a "soul", the supremely good soul... But jf we mean "is the 
good spoken of in the Republic identical with what Christian divines and 
philosophers have meant by God?", the answer must be modified. In one 
most important respect it is. The distinguishing characteristic of the "Form 
of Good" is that it is the transcendent source of ail the reality and intelli- 
gibility of everything other than itself. Thus it is exactly what is meant in 
Christian philosophy by the ens realissimum, and is rightly regarded as 
distinct from and transcendent of the whole system of its effects or mani- 
festations... In other language, it transcends the distinction, too often 
treated as absolute* between value and existence". 

Now all this is no doubt technically true. The idea of good, being an 
idea, cannot be identified with God, for God is a soul and not an idea. 
We may, however, ask: What is a soul? Now Taylor has given at p. 306 of 
the same book, quoting from Phaedrus (246a), the following definition of 
the soul: "The soul may thus be rigorously defined as "that which moves 
itself"." So the question reduces itself to this: Does the idea of good as 
presented in the "Republic" possess any dynamism, or is it merely static? 
It is true that Plato has treated all his other ideas as static. But 
the idea of good, as I have pointed out already, is a very different kind of 
idea, and we must not blindly attribute to it all the qualities or absence 
of qualities that characterise the other ideas. Now if we examine carefully 
the description of the nature of the idea of good which we quoted above, 
we find that the idea of good is described as "that which imparts truth to 
the known and the power of knowing to the knower". Again, it is called, 



"the cause of science and of truth", "the author of science and of truth". 
Now do not these expressions show that the idea of good possesses dyna- 
mism and is not purely siatic as the other ideas are? I admit that Plato 
has not expressly said that it possesses self-initiated motion, but the words 
"imparting truth" and "the cause of science and truth" undoubtedly give 
this idea the dynamical quality of projecting itself out of itself to give rise 
to truth. I shall explain presently why Plato is somewhat halting in his 
ascription of any dynamic quality to the idea of good. 

Taylor further says that if by God is meant the God of the Christian 
divines and philosophers, then he has no objection to admitting that the 
Platonic idea of good is God. Now I would ask Taylor: Do the Christian 
divines and philosophers not insist upon God's possessing the power of 
self-initiated movement? Are they content with an inane God who cannot 
create or generate? If the idea of good cannot be Plato's God because it 
does not possess the power of moving itself, how can it be the Christian 
divines' God who also similarly insist upon God possessing the power of 
generating motion? 

To my mind the explanation of the halting character of Plato's ascription 
of a dynamic quality to the idea of good is quite obvious. Plato had a vision 
or intuition of the idea of good as the ultimate principle of the universe. 
As such he felt it clearly as endowed with the necessary dynamism to enable 
it to function as such. But then his logic stood in his way. He had already 
made a divorce between the ultimate metaphysical realities and a Creator 
who is metaphysically a subordinate principle but is dynamically supreme. 
His logic always clipped the wings of his metaphysical flights. He was, 
as it were, a prisoner of his reason or logic. If he had been born in another 
country he would have thrown logic to the winds and given free play to 
his flights of metaphysical intuition, but being a true Greek, he could riot 
do so and had to make a compromise with reason. 

Jowett in his introduction to the "Republic" speaks thus of the idea of 
good: "The Idea of good is so called only in the P.epublic, but there are 
traces of it in other dialogues of Plato. It is a cause as well as an idea (italics 
mine), and from this point of view may be compared with the creator of 
the Timaeus, who out of his goodness created all things. It corresponds 
to a certain extent with the modern conception of a law of nature, or of 
a final cause, or of both in one, and in this regard may be connected with 
the measure and harmony of the Philebus. It is represented in the Sym- 
posium under the aspect of beauty 5 and is supposed to be attained there 
by stages of initiation, as here by regular gradations of knowledge. Viewed 
subjectively, it is the process or science of dialectic". In another passage 



he says, "This self-proving unity or idea of good is a mere vision of which 
no distinct explanation can be given, relative only to a particular stage in 
Greek philosophy." 

From these quotations, one thing is quite clear., namely, that Jowett is 
not in a position to make up his mind as to how to characterize the idea of 
good. In one and the same sentence he calls it a cause and even compares 
it with the creator of the Timaeus, and then again describes it as an idea, 
I think Jowett is not to blame for this. Plato is himself not quite sure what 
it is. His intuition and his logic are in conflict here. To the end of his days 
he could not shake himself free from the narrowness of the Eleatic or Me- 
garian logic, much as he tried to criticise it in the "Parmenides" and the 
"Sophist". That logic could not give any dynamic character to the meta- 
physical ultimate. Motion, if it is to come at all, has to come from an in- 
ferior source. This accounts for Plato's not having a proper theory of 
Evolution. In fact, that is the chief weakness of Plato's philosophy. Here, 
as we shall presently see, Sri Aurobindo scores a distinct triumph over 
Plato. But where Plato's logic failed him, his intuition guided him. That 
is why in the idea of good he had a vision of a reality which could function 
as a true metaphysical ultimate, but his logic could not suggest the appara- 
tus by which it could do so, and so this grand conception remained philo- 
sophically comparatively barren. It is not surprising, therefore, that Plato 
tried to examine critically the bases of the Megarian logic, which was his 
own logic, with a view to finding out whether any improvement could be 
effected in it, but as we know, beyond achieving its negative object, that 
is, showing the inherent weakness of the Megarian logic, this critical exa- 
mination did not lead to any positive result, and it was left to a philosopher 
who flourished two thousand years later, namely, Hegel, to construct a 
gigantic system of logic out of the materials furnished by Plato in the Par- 

It is not, however, entirely true to say that the barrenness of the idea 
of good is due entirely to the inadequacy of Plato's logic. It is also due. 
as we shall see presently, to the inadequacy of the idea of good itself. 


From the account we have given above of some of the main features o 
Plato's philosophy, two things emerge clearly: First, the grandeur and no- 
bility of its conception and the architectonic beauty of its construction, 
Starting from the idea of good it comprehends in its gigantic sweep the 
vast panorama of Nature and Man, not excluding even the region of the 



gods. It places before man certain grand ideals to be striven after: the 
ideal of the philosopher-king) the science of dialectic with its crowning 
phase, the knowledge of the idea of good, the ideal State, and so on. It 
stresses that aspect of reality which has to do with value, rather than with 
existence or being and gives a reorientation of the whole of human culture 
and the entire life of man from this point of view. It leaves us agape with 
wonder at the stupendousness of the task it has set before itself and the 
untiring energy and labour of thought that its great author has bestowed 
upon it. 

But secondly, we are conscious also of the gaps which his philosophy 
has left, such as the gap between the ideas and the sensible world, the gap 
between the idea of good and the other ideas, the gap between the ideas 
and God, and the gap between the soul and the body. As Gomperz has 
said (Greek Thinkers^ Vol. Ill, p. 262), if Plato is many-sided he is also 
equally one-sided, pursuing the path which he chooses with the utmost 
self-confidence, untroubled by difficulties that are often too patent. This 
is one of the reasons why there are so many gaps in his philosophy. But 
I think the main reason is that Plato was a seer rather than a philosopher 
in the narrow sense of the word. He had a vision of truth which he des- 
cribed in the Dialogues. Like a true Greek he, of course, always gave a 
rational foundation for his vision. But his reason could not keep pace 
with his intuition, and therefore there were big gaps in the rational 
structure which he erected for supporting his intuitions. 

Paradoxical as it may sound, the real influence of Plato's philosophy is 
due to the fact that it was not a closed system. Everybody could find in 
it some new idea 3 some new inspiration. Realists, idealists, orthodox Church- 
men, protestants in religion and philosophy, sceptics, materialists have all 
found in Plato a source of never-failing inspiration. Even Whitehead looks 
upon Plato as his philosophical father or godfather. In fact, I began this 
article with a quotation from Whitehead^ in which he says that the whole 
of Western philosophy is nothing but so many footnotes to Plato. This 
enormous influence Plato could never have acquired if his philosophy 
had been a closed sytem. 

One thing I feel bound to say in the interest of truth and in justice to 
Plato on the subject of gaps in his philosophy. It is not true to say that 
Plato is not conscious of them. On the contrary, his philosophy is a series 
of revisions rendered necessary by the discovery of gaps in the earlier pre- 
sentations of it. The most glaring example is the criticism of the doctrine 
of ideas which we find in the dialogue "Parmenides". So thorough and 
searching was the criticism that Uberweg thought that the entire dialogue 



was spurious. This view, of course, is absurd, as Jowett has pointed out 
in his introduction to his translation of this dialogue. Fortunately this 
view is not shared by modern Greek scholars. Burnet in his Platonism 
holds an even more radical view, for he looks upon the doctrine of ideas 
as not Platonic at all but Socratic. Of course, he holds this view not merely 
on the ground of the criticism of this doctrine in the "Parmenides", but also 
on other grounds. This view, however, he does not hold in his Greek Phi- 
losophy: Thales to Plato. We hold therefore with Jowett that the criticism 
of the doctrine of ideas in only an illustration of the fact that Plato's Phi- 
losophy has had a development and has undergone a continuous process 
of revision at his hands. 



In comparing Plato with Sri Aurobindo, the first thing that strikes one 
is the difference between the Greek spirit and the Indian spirit. The Greek 
mind, as I have already pointed out, is at first directed outwards, and it 
is only at a later stage, that it is directed inwards. In fact, although Prota- 
goras was the first to make this change, it was not before Socrates that 
the Greek mind was really turned inwards. But it never lost its original 
tendency, the tendency to look outwards. The result was that the purely 
idealistic approach, the approach from the standpoint of consciousness, 
was never fully established in Greek philosophy and was always liable to 
be disturbed by the other mode of approach. This is the cause of the 
oscillation we have noticed in Plato between the idealistic and the naturalistic 
standpoint. This is also the reason why he could not interpret the grades 
of reality in terms of the grades of consciousness^ and why in cosnequence 5 
intuition and reason fell apart. All the gaps in Plato's philosophy, may 
in fact, be explained by the seesaw movement between the purely idealistic 
and the naturalistic outlook. His idealism appeared in the form of brilliant 
flashes of intuition, but his logic was coloured by his naturalism, and the 
gap between the two could not be bridged. The fault was not entirely 
that of his logic, it was also partly that of his intuitions, which, although 
they were brilliant, could not give a steady light. 

The spirit of Indian philosophy is very different from this. It was from 
the beginning turned inwards. The highest reality was always conceived 
as Atman or Self, and the duty of man was "to see, hear,, think and con- 



template it" ("dtmd vd are drastavyah srotavyo mantavyo nididhydsitavyah"}. 
Knowing the reality within, the Indian mind discovered it also outside. 
This discovery was the discovery of the all-pervading character of Atman: 
"yadeveha tadamutra^ yadamutra tadanviha" ("what is here is also there; 
what is there is also here"). The interpretation of the universe, therefore, 
which the Indian seers gave was always from the standpoint of conscious- 
ness. The different grades of reality were explained in terms of the different 
grades of consciousness. Consciousness at the level of intuition revealed 
one grade of reality, that at the level of reason another, and so on. There 
was thus no opposition between reality as seen through one grade of con- 
sciousness and that as envisaged by another grade. Not only that, but the 
highest consciousness, which may be called the supreme intuition, was 
conceived as uniting all the lower forms into one harmonious, homogeneous 

Sri Aurobindo.> as a true descendant of our ancient sages, has kept true 
to this standpoint. He looks at the whole universe from the standpoint of 
the highest consciousness, which he calls Sachchidananda. Unlike the 
Greeks, who oscillated between the naturalistic and the idealistic inter- 
pretation of the universe, Sri Aurobindo looks upon the naturalistic inter- 
pretation itself as one that is made from the standponit of consciousness 
at one stage of its evolution. 

Paradoxical as it may sound, even the idealistic interpretation is made 
from the standpoint of the same level of consciousness. This level is what 
we call mental consciousness. Mind is incapable of framing a perfect syn- 
thesis, and therefore, all its constructions exhibit gaps or contradictions. 
Even the intuitions of Plato had not completely freed themselves from 
mental elements, and therefore, there was a clash between them and his 
logic or reason. How this standpoint enables Sri Aurobindo to steer dear 
of the difficulties of Plato's philosophy, I shall explain in the next paragraph. 


Plato's philosophy, thus, is haunted by a sense of its incompleteness: 
its intuition and reason cannot be reconciled with each other. This is its 
great tragedy. It may be removed by lowering the intuitions, by doing 
away, for example, with the idea of good. This was the solution offered 
by Aristotle. He did away with the idea of good, the philosopher-king 
and all the other great ideals revealed by Plato's intuition. Or the remedy 
may be applied to logic by raising it so that it may be made a fit vehicle for 
the intuitions. This second method was that which was adopted by Hegel. 



Sri Aurobindo's solution is totally different from either of these. He 
avoids Plato's tragedy not by lowering the intuitions, nor by raising the 
logic, but by still further raising the intuitions. His diagnosis of Plato's 
tragedy is that it is due to Plato's having imperfect intuitions. The intui- 
tions that Plato had were inutitions of abstract truths, and therefore did not 
have the potency to project themselves out of themselves. The highest intui- 
tions create their own logic and do not have to wait for logic to come up 
to their level. It is one of the cardinal principles of Sri Aurobindo's philo- 
sophy that intuitions differ very much in value. This is one of the main 
points of difference between Sri Aurobindo and most of those Western 
philosophers who also rely partly or wholly upon intuitions. 

Whatever that may be, it 'is undoubtedly true, from Sri Aurobindo's 
point of view, that Plato's intuitions were imperfect, as they were intuitions 
of abstract truth. His idea of good, grand as it is, is yet nothing but an ab- 
straction. It is impossible with such a principle to have any kind of rela- 
tionship with the world of sensible experience. It is dead before it is born, 
and it is useless to try to make it work by offering it a more suitable logic. 
The only remedy is to raise it to the position of a concrete universal. 



One of the most serious defects in Plato's theory of ideas is that the ideas 
as he conceives them are absolutely static and have no power of generation 
or creation. It is only the souls that have got this power, and therefore God 
as the highest soul performs the functions of creation in his philosophy. 
One consequence of this static view of the ideas is that they cannot bring 
themselves into any sort of connection with the world of sense. The only 
way in which a connection is effected is through the agency of God. But 
the God of Plato is only an underdog, having the power to create only 
according to the pattern seen in the ideas. Thus the connection between 
the idfeas and the world created by God is a somewhat remote one. In the 
case of the human world it is still more remote, for God does not create 
it directly but leaves it to the inferior powers. This g ; ves the human world 
a much lower status than what it would have if it had direct connection 
with the ideas. Although it is supposed to participate in the ideas, such 
participation can only be very imperfect. 

This defect we notice also in other systems of philosophy which take a 
similar static view of their ultimate principle. For instance, we notice it 
in the philosophy of Spinoza whose Substance or ultimate principle is also, 



like the ideas of Plato, static. There is no passage in Spinoza from Subs- 
tance to the world of modes or finite beings, and he has therefore to fall 
back upon all sorts of devices, such as that of infinite modes, in order to 
bridge the gulf between the two. We notice it also in the philosophy of 
Hartmann who has borrowed his main ideas from Plato: the values 
of Hartmann cannot bring themselves directly into contact with the 

Another consequence of his static view of the ideas is that Plato has no 
theory of evolution. There is no goal or destination towards which the 
world may be said to be moving. Individual souls can, of course^ imporve 
themselves by education, and if they are sufficiently enlightened, they can, 
through instruction in dialectic, have even a vision of the idea of good, 
but there is nothing in Plato which gives us any indication of the whole 
world marching to a higher goal. On the contrary, the nature of the world 
has been determined beforehand by the manner of its creation, and con- 
sequently the possibility of such advance is ruled out. We shall discuss 
this question when dealing with the problem of evil. 


The contrast here with Sri Aurobindo's philosophy is striking. His 
theory of evolution is the pivot round which the whole philosophy of Sri 
Aurobindo moves. Evolution is the movement which is the reverse of the 
movement of involution or creation. It is because of the descent of the 
Spirit into matter, life and mind, that these can ascend to the higher regions 
of the Spirit. Because the Spirit in creation has involved itself in matter, 
life and mind, therefore, matter, life and mind feel an impulse to rise to 
their Source. Evolution, thus, is a sort of home-sickness of the Spirit. 
The Spirit has descended into the lowest particle of matter; therefore, 
matter seeks to evolve into something higher than itself, namely life. There 
is a descent of the Spirit into life, and therefore, life seeks to rise to some- 
thing higher than itself mind. Similarly, there is a descent of the Spirit 
into mind;, and consequently mind must ascend to something higher than 
itself, namely, Supermind. The highest principle so far evolved is mind. 
But evolution cannot stop with mind^ for mind is not its last word. It must 
move further up and come to the next stage, namely, Supermind. 
There is no uncertainty about it: it is bound to do so by the necessity 
which is forced upon it by the process of involution or creation. But 
when it does so, there will be a radical change in the nature of the 



world, for with the emergence of Supermind the process of evolution be- 
comes a process through knowledge, the previous process being through 

Such, in brief, is Sri Aurobindo's scheme of evolution. It is the most 
optimistic scheme ever conceived by the mind of man. What concerns us 
more particularly here, however, is the picture which it presents to us of 
the goal of human life and society. I cannot do better here than quote a 
passage from his recent book The Human Cycle, where it is set forth as 
clearly as possible: 

"The true and full spiritual aim in society will regard man not as a mind, 
a life and a body, but as a soul incarnated for a divine fulfilment upon earth, 
not only in heavens beyond, which after all it need not have left if it had 
no divine business here in the world of physical, vital and mental nature. 
It will therefore regard the life, mind and body neither as ends in them- 
selves, sufficient for their own satisfaction, not as mortal members full of 
disease which have only to be dropped off for the rescued spirit to flee 
away into its own pure regions, but as first instruments of the soul, the 
yet imperfect instruments of an unseized diviner purpose. It will believe 
in their destiny and help them to believe in themselves, but for that very 
reason in their highest and not only in their lowest or lower possibilities. 
Their destiny will be, in its view, to spiritualise themselves so as to grow 
into visible members of the spirit, lucid means of its manifestation, them- 
selves spiritual, illumined, more and more conscious and perfect. For 
accepting the truth of man's soul as a thing entirely divine in its essence, 
it will accept also the possibility of his whole being becoming divine in spite 
of Nature's first patent contradictions of this possibility, her darkened 
denials of this ultimate certitude, and even with these as a necessary earthly 
starting-point. And as it will regard man the individual, it will regard 
man the collectivity as a soul-form of the Infinite, a collective soul myriadly 
embodied upon earth for a divine fulfilment in its manifold relations and 
its multitudinous activities. Therefore it will hold sacred all the different 
parts &f man's life which correspond to the parts of his being, all his 
physical, vital, dynamic, emotional, aesthetic, ethical, intellectual, psychic 
evolution, and see in them instruments for a growth towards a diviner 
living. It will regard every human society, nation, people or other organic 
aggregate from the same standpoint, subsouls, as it were, means of a 
complex manifestation and self-fulfilment of the Spirit, the divine 
Reality, the conscious Infinite in man upon earth. The possible godhead 
of man because he is inwardly of one being with God will be its one solitary 
cree<J and dogma." (The Human Cycle, pp. 281-82) 




Plato's philosophy, optimistic as its general tone is, regards evil as a 
permanent condition of human beings. Although for Plato there is no moral 
evil, for, like his master Socrates, he does not believe in wilful wrong-doing, 
yet he admits the existence of evil in the form of metaphysical evil or the 
presence of error and ignorance. Although man's will is not perverted, 
yet man's intellect is defective, and this defect is something which can 
never be cured, so long as man's soul is chained to the body. And that is 
why, as he says in the "Phaedo", the philosopher longs to die. In the "Phae- 
drus" he says the soul is like a charioteer driving a pair of winged steeds. 1 
In the case of the divine souls, both the steeds are good, but in the human 
soul one of the steeds is bad. This unruly steed caused the charioteer to 
see imperfectly at the time of the festival of souls, in which they visited 
the heaven above the heavens. So the soul lost her wings and fell to earth, 
and it then acquired an earthly body. It is this complex of body and soul 
which we call man. 

From these accounts it appears that Plato looks upon evil as a necessary 
condition of human life on earth. The only chance for human beings to 
escape it is through rebirth. In the "Phaedrus" Plato says that on the manner 
in which he makes use of his life on earth depends a man's condition after 
death. And only in ten thousand years can the soul of man return to her 
primitive state except through a life of philosophy or a pure and noble 
love. In the "Timaeus", as I have already pointed out, Plato's attitude is still 
more uncompromising, for even the creation of mortal beings he leaves 
to inferior powers, as God can only create beings in His own image. This 
certainly leaves man in a permanently helpless condition so far as escape 
from evil is concerned. 

The "Republic" apparently gives us the hope that at least the philosopher 
who is "the spectator of all time and all existence", and has knowledge of 
the idea of good, is freed from all taint of evil. But the "Phaedo" expressly 
declares that it is the philosopher who particularly longs to die, for he 
realizes that so long as he is not freed from the body, there is no chance 
for him of escaping evil. This clearly shows that even the philosopher 
is not free from evil. 

For Sri Aurobindo, on the contrary, evil is not a permanent feature of 
human society. There is evil, no doubt, at the present stage of human society. 

1 The similarity of this idea with that of Kath. 1.3.3-4 is too striking to escape notice. 



But its present stage is not the highest of which that society is capable. 
Evil is only a phase in the evolution of man. It arises at a certain stage of 
human evolution when certain conditions prevail and disappears with the 
disappearance of those conditions. The world as such is not evil. In the 
beginning when the world was enveloped by the darkness of inconscience 
there was no evil. So also in the end when the superman will emerge there 
will be no evil. It is only in the middle stage which represents where we 
are at present, that there is any evil. 

The question which arises in connection with the problem of evil is: 
How does evil originate in this world? The answer from Sri Aurobindo's 
standpoint as I have given it in my book Studies in Sri Aurobindo's Philosophy 
is this: 

"When truth exists as a whole on a basis of self-aware oneness, evil cannot 
enter. It is only when there is a disturbance of this self-aware oneness, 
that evil can enter. This happens when the separate divisions in their 
self-assertiveness offer opposition to the unity of consciousness-force which 
created the divisions. Separateness cannot cause evil, but when separate- 
ness is combined with this kind of self-assertiveness, which we may call 
aggressive self-assertiveness, an imperium in imperio> is set up, and it is then 
that we have the beginning of evil. The name which Sri Aurobindo has 
given to this aggressive self-assertiveness is Egoism." (ibid. p. 116). 


I come now to a question on which there have been considerable differences 
of opinion: Can Plato and Sri Aurobindo be regarded as mystics? I have 
already dealt with the question whether Sri Aurobindo can be regarded 
as a mystic in my article Sri Aurobindo and Plotinus which I contributed 
to this Annual three years ago. As I said there, Sri Aurobindo cannot be 
called a mystic simply because he takes the help of intuition as a means of 
discovery of the highest truth. The test is whether he employs it as the 
sole "means of discovering truth. Judged by this test, I showed that Sri 
Aurobindo could not be regarded as a mystic, because he had never dis- 
carded reason and other lower levels of consciousness, but on the contrary, 
gave their due place to them. I even showed there that Plotinus could not 
be regarded as a full-fledged mystic, because it is only in the last part of 
the quest for truth that the relied upon intuition, the rest of his philoso- 
phical structure being based upon reason. 

The same thing can be said of Plato. Although there is a good deal of 
the mystic element in his philosophy, as for instance, in his conception of 



the idea of good, yet he cannot be called a mystic. Platonism cannot be 
dubbed mysticism simply because it believed in intuition as a source of 
truth. To show that it is mysticism it is necessary to prove that it relied 
upon intuition and upon no other source for the knowledge of truth. This, 
of course, it is impossible to prove, for Plato was a true disciple of Socrates, 
who asserted against Protagoras that it was not sensuous perception but 
reason which alone could reveal the truth. 

There are undoubtedly traces of mysticism in Plato. As I have already 
said in connection with the background of Plato's philosophy, the influence 
of Pythagoras is very strong upon it. This influence in fact is one of the 
main sources of the mystic element in it. In the mystic symbolism of num- 
bers which is found is the "Timaeus" we see a clear influence of Pytha- 
gorean mysticism. Not only that, but the entire description of creation 
from the mouth of a Pythagorean philosopher is in a deeply mystic vein. 
But it was not from Pythagoras alone that Plato derived the mystical trends 
in his philosophy. During the twelve years that he spent in travel after the 
death of Socrates, he visited Egypt, Italy and Sicily and possibly also some 
other countries, and it is quite possible that he not only came in contact 
with Orphic mystics but also with Oriental mysticism. Be that as it may, 
there are undoubted traces of mysticism in his writings. All his great con- 
ceptions, such as that of beauty in the "Symbosium" or love in the "Phae- 
drus" or the idea of good in the "Republic" are the products of such mys- 
ticism. The "Phaedo" is through and through mystical. Its description 
of the body as a prison and the longing of the philosopher for release from 
the world of sense into the bliss of the soul-life is deeply mystical. If we 
are to single out, however, one feature of Plato's philosophy which is more 
mystical than any other, it is his idea of good. The philosopher has a "vision" 
of this idea of good. It is something ineifable; in the words of our ancient 
sages, something from which "words come back with an unfulfilled mind". 
It is not the kind of reality as we ordinarily conceive, but something 
which absolutely transcends it. It is therefore somewhat surprising that 
Andrew Seth Pringle-Pattison in his article "Mysticism" (Encyclopaedia 
Britannica, Eleventh Edition) refuses to recognize any mysticism not only 
in Plato but also in the entire Greek philosophy prior to Neo-Platonism, 
He dismisses the question of mysticism in Greek philosophy summarily 
by saying, "For opposite reasons, neither the Greek nor the Jewish mind 
lent itself readily to mysticism, the Greek, because of its clear and sunny 
naturalism; the Jewish, because of its rigid monotheism and its turn to- 
wards worldly realism and statutory observance". Greek philosophy cannot 
be summarily dismissed in this way as sunny naturalism: this description 



will certainly not fit the philosophy of Heraclitus or Pythagoras or Plato. 

Plato's philosophy, therefore 3 undoubtedly shows a good deal of mystical 
tendency, but it would not be correct to characterize it as mysticism, for 
it does not believe that the mystic vision is the only way to truth. It has 
never lost its faith in reason, but has always been careful to join an elaborate 
rational structure to the supreme truths revealed by mystic vision. Of 
course, the joints have in many cases been rather weak, as I have tried to 
point out, but this does not entitle us to say that Plato is a mystic. 

Reverting to Sri Aurobindo, we find that mysticism does not touch 
merely the fringe of his philosophy, but that it has contact with the whole 
of his philosophy. But mysticism has undergone a complete transformation 
in his hands. It has shed its awful aloofness and mixes freely with other 
ways of approaching truth. If fact, from Sri Aurobindo's point of view, 
there is nothing mystic about mysticism. 

It is a great mistake to treat mysticism as a sort of Pope or Dalai Lama 
living in isolated grandeur. It cannot be too strongly emphasized that 
the mystic experience has value only when it is joined to other kinds of 
human experience. Detached from them it becomes a mere flash of intui- 
tion which quickly disappears without leaving any permanent mark. Such 
a mystic experience is hardly of any value. What is wanted is what I may 
call a process of acclimatisation of the mystic experience, that is to say, a 
process by which the mystic experience is brought into contact with reason 
and sensuous experience, and even something lower down the scale, namely, 
our vital experience. The mystic experience, if it is made to go through 
this process, is of course of great value, as it is the means of raising the 
lower forms of experience, the mental and the vital experience, to a higher 

Another thing upon which great stress is laid by Sri Aurobindo is that 
there are various grades of mystic experience. All consciousness, in fact, 
above the mental level, such as the higher mind, the illumined mind, in- 
tuition, the overmind and the supermind may be called mystic. But there 
is a vast difference, both in content and in value, between the consciousness 
which is just above the mental, such as the higher mind, and the supra- 
mental consciousness. It shows therefore only our ignorance of these 
different grades if we give the same name 'mystic' to all of them. 

It is wrong to suppose that the mystic experience will always maintain 
its distance from normal human experience. For Sri Aurobindo a time is 
bound to come when the normal human experience will overtake it and 
even go beyond. Human consciousness is bound to evolve to something 
higher than what it is to-day. The result is that what we take to be super- 


normal to-day will be the normal state of human consciousness in the 
higher stages of its evolution. What we call mystic experience comes from 
a source slightly higher than our normal experience to-day. There are 
still higher forms of consciousness of which even our highest mystic ex- 
periences do not give us anything more than the faintest inkling. Our 
evolution is bound to take us one day to that stage where it will be possible 
for us to dwell permanently in that level of consciousness of which our 
present mystic experiences, even the best of them, give nothing more than 
the faintest glimmering. For Sri Aurobindo the problem of philosophy 
is to investigate the conditions under which such a possibility can arise. 
He is not interested in singing the virtues of the mystic experience as a 
freak consciousness unrelated to the rest of our experience. But that is 
precisely what interests the mystic. I have therefore always maintained 
that Sri Aurobindo is not a mystic. 


A Few Words on Sri Aurobindo 


/~\NLY rarely do we South Americans come in contact with remote 
literature. It is perhaps one of the paradoxes of the world that 
semi-asiatic people such as we are should harbour such fabulous ignorance 
about the Indo-European and Oriental portions of the globe and fail to 
recognise our mongolian and Polynesian strains, while at the same time 
feel a kinship to this or that part of Europe. 

Because of this anomalous situation the vast culture of Asia has reached 
our shores only in the form of three guests: the works of Tagore, one book 
of Gandhi, and a few emasculated fragments of the Mahabarata and the 
Ramayana. Even the rare oriental book which does arrive, usually in a 
twice removed translation, labours under several severe handicaps in trying 
to reach our people; these religious texts are abstruse and our ordinary reader 
is an easy-going fellow who very much prefers uncomplicated literature 
through which he can race with little effort. The Oriental texts, on the 
contrary, are veritable mountains, not easily scaled and their steep sides offer 
little solace to the weary climber; they require in fact heroic efforts from 
the reader, like those which must be made by one who aspires to plumb 
the depth of the sea or scale our high Andes, which present obstacles 
second only to the Himalayas. 

Thus the discovery of Sri Aurobindo came to me late and in a mutilated 
form. On the shop counter of a French book-stall I unexpectedly came 
across a copy of "The Mother" and found myself in contact with one of 
those pieces which are so intense and beautiful that they captivate at once 
even though they are mere fragments of something far greater. I sought 
for more by the unknown author and I was told of " The Synthesis of 
Yoga". Unfortunately I did not find then his central work "The Life Divine" 
and I have remained until today thirsting for it. (I remember smiling at 
a photograph of the Hindu sage whose features seemed to me so much like 
these of my South Pacific peoples; to those indigenous features which 
recur everywhere between Peru and Mexico.) I read these books knowing 



almost nothing about the author: his strange Indo-European background, his 
high rank in oriental letters and his wide influence on Indian political life. 

To give an opinion on a writer read in double translation is a painful 
ordeal. Honesty and diffidence would normally require one to abstain 
from comment under such circumstances and therefore I write this appraisal 
with shy misgivings. I can only hope to give my South America, my beloved 
Chile some glimmering participation in this great day of jubilation. For 
the man who is now retired in his Asram belongs to that order of human 
beings who are universal because of the breadth of their message and who, 
like gushing fountains, bring refreshment and solace to the human race. 

It is probable that if the extinct League of Nations and the "United 
Nations" of today had in their midst more true apostles and fewer tricky 
politicians, their debates would be attended with more Divine Grace for 
the good of humanity. Even in Greek mythology Mercury-Commerce 
followed rather than preceded Apollo, the enchanter of man. We must 
eliminate from the Conclave of Nations all this name calling and empty 
speech making entirely devoid of any sincere desire for Spiritual Unity. 
The word "world- wide" recurs in these debates only because our delegates 
are descendants of men of a high spiritual order. On the other hand this 
term has never lost its true meaning in that Asia scorned by Europe which 
has become the victim of a great amnesia. To have forgotten one's Mother 
is perhaps the greatest amnesia and the Orient is the mother of Europe 
in every sense, for it is to the Orient that European culture owes its birth 
and sustenance. If the word "unity" is repeated by a faithful Asia day after 
day it is simply because it is the first letter in their moral alphabet. It is 
repeated in the morning prayer and in the evening vespers of the faithful. 
The devotees of Asia have always striven to encompass in their faith the 
entire human race. Nothing is cut off or excluded by frightening chasms. 
There is no attempt to evaluate nations by economic standards. The same 
cannot be said of our own preachers whose sphere is usually bounded by 
their own coastlines or by the white-washed marker stones of frontiers 
whose origin is political and therefore false. No learned man today need 
remain in absolute ignorance of the two religions which encompass mil- 
lions of Asiatics. A sincere attempt to approach Buddhism to mention 
only one of the more profound Oriental creeds would free us from the 
error of making infantile mockery of a great religion, which was surely 
the forerunner of Christianity and the prologue to the "Great Event". 
This sea of prose of Sri Aurobindo turns out to be a Mediterranean smooth 
and buoyant like the one which bore the galleons of old. 

Six foreign languages have given the Master of Pondicherry a gift of 



co-ordination, a clarity free from gaudiness, and a charm which borders on 
the magical. These are three atributes which are rarely found together in 
the exegete even less in the Seer. Some fall into the sin of obscurity, others 
suffer from doctrinarian fever, a serious thing which leads us astray seizing 
us in the grip of religious controversies. Moreover, apostles and exegetes 
usually lack the beauty of expression though the substance they seek to 
expound may come from the world of the Divine and be more precious 
than gold or rare spices. 

Mysticism has been declared by many as a dangerous zone. It is said 
to be barren and even disreputable. In the two branches of Christianity, 
Catholic and Protestant it is viewed with suspicion as a malarial marsh 
covered with unhealthy mists. In spite of the glorious names of our saints 
and devotees, from St John the Evangelist to Ruysbroek and Spain's contin- 
gent of enlightened souls, the majority of ordinary Christians as well as 
the spiritual petit bourgeoisie of Christian hierarchy still seem altogether 
afraid of approaching the great zone of fire. 

Sri Aurobindo, the Master, highest of mystics, happily presents the rare 
phenomenon of an exposition clear as a beautiful diamond, without the 
danger of confounding the layman. This is possible only because Sri 
Aurobindo is a unique synthesis of a scholar, a theologian and one who is 

These are indeed "glad tidings" that come to us; to know that there is 
a place in the world where culture has reached its tone of dignity by uniting 
in one man a supernatural life with a consummate literary style, thus making 
use of his beautifully austere and classical prose to serve as the handmaid 
of the Spirit. One finds here texts which do not belabour with the anxious 
stutterings so common to saintly souls whose poor expression often dis- 
suades even the most zealous readers. We have before us a prose which 
approximates that of the great Eckhart, German classicist and fountain-head 
of European mysticism. 

It is a gift which reaches us at a time when we are besieged by a 
petrifying materialism,, in which we have been living since the surge of 
French and English rationalism destroyed the tenets of Universal Chris- 
tianity. I should like to know if the co-ordination which an inner discip- 
line of the spiritual type gives and the perfect agreement between a spiritual 
doctrine and a way of life are always necessarily reflected in a human 
writing of the highest order. The extraordinary case of Sri Aurobindo the 
writer surely seems to give great validity to such a thesis. 

(Translated from Spanish).